How to Boost DNA Repair in Aging Cells

Scientists have long wondered why cells lose their ability to repair themselves as they age. New research by scientists has uncovered two intriguing cluesDNA strands in human cells routinely break and repair themselves, Seluanov and Gorbunova from University of Rochester explained, but as cells age, the system for repair becomes less efficient and flaws in the process lead to a decline in the functionality of tissue and an increase in the incidence of tumors. Their team wanted to determine why this occurs, and establish whether the process could be slowed, or even reversed.
Seluanov and his colleagues found that the decline in a cell's ability to repair DNA during aging coincided with a global reduction in the levels of proteins involved in the repair process. Seluanov's group tried to reverse the age-related decline in DNA repair efficiency by restoring the proteins to their original levels and found only one protein, SIRT6, did the trick. Gorbunova said the results build on a paper by Haim Cohen, a staff scientist investigating aging at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and others published in the journal Nature this summer.

"That work showed that overexpressing the SIRT6 protein extended the lifespans of mice," said Gorbunova, "Our research looked at DNA repair and found a reason for the increased longevity, and that is SIRT6's role in promoting more efficient DNA repair."

The next step for Seluanov and his team is to study the factors that regulate SIRT6, in an effort to learn more about the early stages of the DNA repair process. Seluanov said that multiple groups are trying to develop drugs that activate SIRT6, and he hopes that this research will one day lead to therapies that help extend a person's lifespan and treat cancer.

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