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Published on : Oct 27, 2017

There have been several studies done in recent decades that focused on age-related diseases with an aim to slow down the ageing process and design clinical interventions to promote the longevity in humans. The role of mitochondria, power generating structures inside the cells, has already been established in aging as these respond to energy demands by dynamically changing their shape. However, none of these studies could clearly predict the link between mitochondrial network remodeling and organism’s metabolism and the cellular functions. A recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has established a close link between mitochondrial network homeostasis-dynamic changes in mitochondrial network between fused and fragmented states-with longevity. The researchers found this is possible through suitable dietary restrictions or by genetic manipulation.

The details of their work is published online October 26, 2017 in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Preserving Mitochondrial Networks’ States Key to Unlocking the Beneficial Effects of Fasting  

To study aging in real time in laboratory environment, the scientists used Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) that serve as an excellent model for the research, since these have a lifespan for just two weeks. They then restricted the worms' diet, by genetically manipulating AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an energy-sensing protein, in them. These low-energy condition are akin to intermittent fasting which helped the worms remain youthful by keeping the mitochondrial networks in fused state. The researchers found that preserving mitochondrial network homeostasis is crucial to prolonging aging in C. elegans. However, they stated that such intervention is possible only through dynamic network remodeling. In addition, dietary restriction-mediated aging intervention entails favorably communicating with organelles to help in the metabolism of fat.

The scientists contended that these two factors are essential in increasing lifespan and opined that in future will serve as potential models for designing therapeutic strategies in humans to prevent age-related diseases. Further research is anticipated to explore the role of mitochondrial networks in the beneficial effects of fasting in mammals.