BBC 1 May 2001
breakthrough in gene technology holds out the prospect of
a more effective anti-ageing treatment.
may also lead to new treatments to fight cancer.
from Newcastle University have found a way to enhance the
body's natural repair mechanism.
have discovered that raising levels of a specialised protein
called PARP-1 can help cells to carry out repairs more effectively.
works by mending damaged strands of the genetic material DNA.
is thought that damage to DNA is the driving force behind
the ageing process.
is also known to be a major factor in the development of cancers.
Newcastle team has previously shown that animals with different
lifespans have different types of PARP-1.
instance, mice, which have a short lifespan, have a less effective
form of the protein.
researchers believe this is because mice have lots of predators,
and are therefore unlikely to live very long.
instead of trying to maximise their lifespan, they have evolved
to concentrate their energies into reproducing themselves.
the other hand, species such as humans with few predators
have may have evolved more efficient PARP-1 because it makes
sense in evolutionary terms to try to maximise lifespan.
researcher Dr Alexander Burkle, of the Department of Gerontology
at Newcastle University, said: "We have produced cells
which, under stress conditions keep their genetic substance,
the DNA, in better shape, in a way which for some reason was
not the path chosen by nature during evolution.
opens up exciting possibilities for future research."
Burkle said it could be that people who age rapidly have a
deficiency of PARP-1 in certain types of tissue.
Burkle is also interested in the role of the vitamin, niacin,
which also plays a role in DNA repair.
believes that it is possible that the ageing process may be
accelerated by a lack of niacin in the poor Western diet.
spokeswoman for the medical research charity Research into
Ageing told BBC News Online that the research was "exciting".
Burkle's discovery is a good example of the high quality research
that is needed to improve our defences against the conditions
that can make later life miserable.
like this that identifies specific mechanisms provides a first
step towards scientists being able to design drugs that prevent
need this kind of understanding to make our longer lives as
healthy, active and independent as possible"