SEP 17, 2015 02:52 PM PDT

Why Organ Function Changes As We Age

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hertrich
1 20 2714
The thought of aging is a scary one for many of us. If you could use science to turn back the hands of time, wouldn’t you? When we age, our cells lose the ability to function efficiently which results in a decrease in our ability to be physically active, and ultimately death. Much of the research investigating what happens to our cells as we age has involved the study of changes in gene expression in aging mammals. Specifically, these studies have identified changes in DNA transcription and translation in cells of specific organs. Transcription is the first step in gene expression in which a segment of DNA is copied to messenger RNA (mRNA) by an enzyme known as RNA polymerase. Translation is the process in which the mRNA is decoded by the ribosome within the cell to produce proteins.
Tissues with low cell proliferation rates and low regeneration capacity are more vulnerable to loss of function.
On a global scale, aging organs do not undergo massive changes in terms of gene expression. Less than 5% of changes in gene expression are attributed to age. Other research has shown the majority of proteins that result in gene expression remain unchanged in relation to aging. However; tissues with low cell proliferation rates and low regeneration capacity are more vulnerable to loss of function. These types of tissues, such as the brain, contain a subset of proteins with an extremely long half-life, making them more likely to become damaged. In such tissues proteins can be modified (following the gene expression process) by altering protein structure or localization within a cell.

A group of researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany have quantified the alterations that occur in proteins between young and old rates in two organs, the brain and the liver, by simultaneously monitoring the levels of protein, mRNA, post-translational modifications and translation rates within a single biological specimen. Through the integration of these measurements, the research team discovered that changes in translation are the cause for changes in proteins during aging. In older animals, protein localization and phosphorylation (addition of phosphate molecules to cells) was also found to cause modifications to proteins. It was not surprising the the greatest number of changes in protein function was found in the brain compared to the liver.

This research provides a great deal of resources and insight into further research regarding the influence of aging on gene expression and protein modification. This study provides a peak at the changes that occur in the proteome at the cellular level and the organ level in old and young rats. Future studies that stems from this research may provide the key to the fountain of youth.
 
Sources: Cell Systems
 
About the Author
  • I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
You May Also Like
JUN 17, 2018
Cardiology
JUN 17, 2018
Microtubule Intervention to Reverse Heart Disease
Changes in the cellular structure of heart muscle cells have a large impact: past and present studies show that these types of changes can lead to heart fa
JUN 27, 2018
Immunology
JUN 27, 2018
Immune Cells Responsible for Chemo-induced Diarrhea
While studying specific immune cells in the context of chronic itching in the skin, two Washington University School of Medicine scientists discovered that
JUN 30, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUN 30, 2018
Printable Bone Grafts may Change Therapeutics
An unlimited supply of materials for transplants like bone grafts would be a game-changer.
JUL 08, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 08, 2018
Natural Molecule has a Potent Anti-inflammatory Impact
A compound that is naturally made by a bacterium called Francisella tularensis can impair the immune response.
JUL 22, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUL 22, 2018
Using Nanosubmarines to Fight Tumors and Headaches
Researchers are getting closer to creating targeted therapies that are delivered directly where needed.
AUG 12, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
AUG 12, 2018
Bringing Genetics Research to the Developing World
Researchers want to ensure that technology is distributed equitably, to benefit everyone.
Loading Comments...