The molecular basis of longevity, and clinical implications.

Author: Marques FZ, Markus MA, Morris BJ.
Basic & Clinical Genomics Laboratory, School of Medical Sciences and Bosch Institute, Building F13, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
Conference/Journal: Maturitas
Date published: 2010 Jan 5
Other: Word Count: 260

The determinants of length of life are multifactorial and involve complex processes, most of which are not as yet understood completely. Tremendous advances have, however, been made in recent times in understanding some of the key molecular mechanisms that influence ageing and lifespan. Herein we highlight many of the more important findings and their potential clinical implications. Most of the intracellular factors involved in the ageing process, such as members of the sirtuin family, as well as insulin and insulin-like growth factor-I and their genes, are part of interconnected pathways. The manipulation of these and other genes in animal models can increase or decrease lifespan. Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms, some of which involve microRNAs, as well as modifications to chromatin and histones, can influence longevity. A decline in the function of stem cells might also be responsible for some aspects of mammalian ageing. Calorie restriction, polyphenols such as resveratrol, rapamycin, spermidine and angiotensin I converting enzyme inhibitor, are able to increase lifespan by modulation of branches of the longevity pathways. Molecular genetic studies of long-lived subjects have identified several potential candidate genes, but genetic research on ageing is in its infancy. Large genome-wide association studies should provide insights. Although new biomarkers for ageing and health, such as ones that might reveal telomere dysfunction, have been described, advances in the genetics and molecular biology of longevity will require interdisciplinary approaches if the much-hoped for success in alleviating the diseases of ageing, and an extension of both lifespan and healthspan is to be achieved. Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.