The Reversal of Aging May Start in Your Intestines
According to a new study, slowing the aging of your intestines may be vital to slowing overall aging.
An experiment on zebrafish showed that if the aging of just that one organ was slowed through DNA insertion, the entire body's aging process follows suit.
The slowed-aging effect was produced by encouraging intestine cells to make more of the enzyme telomerase.
Gut health has been in a trendy spotlight over the last few years. From products promising to fix your gut microbiome to nutritionists trying to teach you how to get your gut in tip-top shape, the largely unfashionable digestive tract has been everywhere.
And now, according to a recent study, part of it may be the key to slowing aging.
Scientists from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) have studied the impacts of intestine-focused DNA insertion on zebrafish. Throughout their research, they found that specific DNA fragments able to target the regeneration abilities of intestinal cells implanted in the fish slowed not only the aging of the intestines but also the aging of the fish's entire body.
According to a CNRS press release, this isn't exactly surprising, as there has long been a connection between the intestines and aging. In addition to ferrying food and waste from one part of the body to another, the intestines act as a barrier between everything in them and the rest of the body.
But as the intestines age, they become weaker barriers, allowing substances that may hasten the aging process to pass through their walls and into the rest of the body—and they age faster than any other part of the body.
At the DNA level, the aging process looks like the shortening of something called telomeres. These sections of genetic code at the end of chromosomes slowly shorten until they're so short that the cell can't properly divide anymore, and it dies—unless it gets some vital help from something called telomerase, an enzyme that lengthens those all-important telomeres.
So, to keep the cells in the zebrafish's intestines ready for further division (thus slowing aging), the research team inserted a DNA fragment that would encourage telomerase production in the target area.
And not only did the intestine-aging process slow down, but the aging in the rest of the fish's body did also. According to a press release on the study, the team "observed the slowing not only of the organ's decline but also and especially that of the entire organism. This phenomenon regenerates the fertility and general health of individuals during the normal aging process and increases lifespan with no associated risk of developing cancer."
Obviously, this is still early in the investigation process, so while the study seems promising in zebrafish, there's still a way to go before we have any human trials related to intestine-focused anti-aging via DNA insertion. But the core concept seems promising, and researchers intend to do a lot more research into how the lengths of telomeres affect the aging process.
For now, we'll just have to wonder if fish guts really do hold the key to a longer life.
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