South Korean scientists from KAIST have been able to increase the lifespan of the roundworm by experimenting with certain types of proteins. They say that humans have the same proteins, and this discovery could be the basis for drugs for longevity.
The VRK-1 and AMPK proteins work together in worm cells (Caenorhabditis elegans). VRK-1 activates AMPK and it is the latter that is responsible for monitoring the energy levels of the cells when the energy runs out. Scientists have been able to increase and decrease the activity of a gene that is responsible for transmitting information to cells about the production of the VRK-1 protein. Moreover, this gene is present in most complex organisms, including humans.
According to the authors of the study, increasing and decreasing the activity of this gene, it was possible to prolong and shorten the life of the worm, which usually lives only two to three weeks. After that, scientists successfully carried out the same experiment, but with human cells that were grown in the laboratory. The process with the activation of the gene and the production of the VRK-1 protein was repeated.
“This opens up the intriguing possibility that VRK-1 also functions as a factor governing human longevity, so perhaps we can start developing drugs that alter the activity of VRK-1 and promote longevity,” says study leader Seung-Jae W . Lee.
Scientists believe the research could also help treat metabolic disorders.