The key to a long healthy life might be circulating through your body. Research scientists at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland say that two proteins in your bloodstream might play a significant role in determining how long you will live and how healthy you will be.
These proteins are more influential than others as far as aging is concerned, the scientists explain. So much so that levels of these proteins that are too high might be robbing you of a long healthy life.Read More »
The researchers explain that the daily decisions people make also influence their mortality. In addition to their families’ genetic history, other factors such as lifestyle, exercise, environment, eating habits, and even chance can affect how long a person will live. In these studies, however, the scientists took a close look at the role that blood proteins play in the greater process of aging.
Identified two proteins
The research team analyzed six major genetic studies that focused on the aging process. Each study consisted of a large dataset of information on genetics that included hundreds of thousands of people.
From an analysis of 857 proteins, the research team identified in particular two proteins that indicate that they have a significant negative impact when they are examined using a variety of measures of aging.
A major finding was that people whose DNA inherited from their parents contain these two proteins tend to have lower self-rated overall health scores and were frailer. They were, therefore, less likely to live an exceptionally longer life when compared with other people who did not have higher levels of the two proteins.
There is hope for these people, however. In identifying these two proteins, scientists suggest that they could take action that will lower the levels of these two proteins in their blood and thereby extend the healthy years of life for these people.
Drugs that lower these two proteins in our blood could let these people live as long a life and as healthy a life as those who have “won the genetic lottery” by being born with lower levels of the two proteins, explains Dr. Paul Timmers, lead researcher in the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh.
The two suspect proteins
The two proteins that were identified by the scientists as playing the most significant role in preventing people living a healthy and longer life are:
• Apolipoprotein(a), known as LPA, is produced in the liver. It might play a role in blood clotting, Timmers explains. Too much LPA can lead to an increase in atherosclerosis, a term that refers to the clogging of the arteries with fatty substances. Too much LPA in the blood is linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
• Vascular cell adhesion molecule 1, known as VCAM1, lives on the surfaces of endothelial cells, Timmers explains. These single-cell layers line the blood vessels.
The retraction and expansion of blood vessels—an important factor in immune responses and blood clotting—are controlled by VCAM1. Levels of VCAM1 tend to increase when people are suffering from an infection, letting immune cells cross the endothelial layer.
Improving the aging process
Scientists concluded the drugs that are able to lower levels of LPA and VCAM1 might help to improve the length of a person’s life as well as its quality.
A clinical trial is already being conducted testing a drug that lowers LPA levels in order to lower the risk of heart disease.
No trials are being conducted at present on VCAM1. Recent studies on mice, however, have shown that brain health during old age might be improved by lowering the levels of VCAM1 in a person’s blood.
The study indicates the power that modern genetics has to identify two possible targets for the development of drugs that can extend a person’s lifespan, says Prof. Jim Wilson, chair of Human Genetics at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute.
The study appears in the journal Nature Aging.