A Newly Discovered Culprit in Aging
Researchers have zeroed in on a protein, found in both humans and insects, that plays a key part in systemic inflammation and chronic inflammatory disorders. Both those conditions are associated with aging as well as many cancers.
The discovery, by investigators from the Carnegie Institute of Science, in Washington, DC, used fruit flies to focus on a protein called lamin-B. The researchers found that eliminating lamin-B from the insects led to inflammation and hyperplasia.
In hyperplasia, cells undergo excessive division – a process similar to the one that leads to precancerous polyps in humans.
The study analyzed the “fat body,” an organ found in fruit flies. Roughly equivalent to the human liver, it’s responsible for many immune functions. The investigators found that the fat body experiences a great deal of inflammation as flies age.
Ultimately, the inflammation leads the fat bodies to secrete proteins that lead to weaker immune responses. The culprit in this “immunosenescence” is lamin-B, which is part of the lamin family of proteins. In humans, diseases caused by lamin mutations are called laminopathies and include premature aging.
The discovery of lamin-B’s role could eventually lead to treatments aimed at blocking the elimination lf lamin-B.
“Our findings have implications for mammals as well as for insects, as immune response genes in mammals also are known to have lamins present on them,” said researchers Yixian Zheng. “We think..our work could provide insight into immunosenescence in humans.”
The findings were published in the journal Cell.