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FLORA AND FAUNA
Scientists prolong life, slow aging in fruit flies
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Sep 6, 2017


Researchers in California are helping fruit flies live longer.

A team of biologists at UCLA have developed a way to repair damaged mitochondria in fruit fly cells, thus delaying the aging process.

The mitochondria is the engine room of the cell -- the powerhouse. They dictate the lifespan of a cell. In humans, older mitochondria malfunction and damaged cells can accumulate and turn toxic, most often in the brain, encouraging a range of age-related diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

In fruit flies, small, round mitochondria change shape as they reach middle age -- roughly a month into a fruit fly's two-month lifespan.

"We think the fact that the mitochondria become larger and elongated impairs the cell's ability to clear the damaged mitochondria," David Walker, a professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA, said in a news release. "And our research suggests dysfunctional mitochondria accumulate with age, rather than being discarded."

Researchers managed to repair the aging cellular organelles by simply breaking up the swollen mitochondria into smaller fragments. After the mitochondria-breakup, flies were more active and showcased increased endurance. Females lived 20 percent longer and males increased their lifespan by 12 percent.

Biologists broke apart enlarged mitochondria by treating fruit flies with an increased dose of Drp1, a protein studies have identified as central to the aging process. The protein dosage helped flies break up the mitochondria into more manageable pieces.

A bit of genetic engineering showed another gene, Atg1, is key to the mitochondrial waste removal process. Once broken-down into smaller fragments, the flies can dispose of the damaged mitochondrial bits, leaving only the healthy parts behind. Flies with a disabled Atg1 gene were unable to perform this function.

"It's like we took middle-aged muscle tissue and rejuvenated it to youthful muscle," said Walker. "We actually delayed age-related health decline. And seven days of intervention was sufficient to prolong their lives and enhance their health."

The researchers recounted their success in a new paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

Whether the fruit fly fountain of youth will be accessible to humans remains unclear, but Walker hopes to develop pharmaceuticals that mimic the effects of Drp1. That fruit flies responded to such a brief treatment regimen is promising, as the prolonged use of drugs in humans can have negative side effects.

FLORA AND FAUNA
Tasmanian DNA to aid bandicoot reboot in Victoria
Washington (UPI) Sep 5, 2017
In an effort to reestablish bandicoots in Victoria, Australia, researchers are infusing bandicoot breeding programs with fresh bandicoot DNA from Tasmania. Genetic diversity is essential to isolated populations of endangered species. Eastern barred bandicoots are worse than isolated in Victoria, they're relegated to life in captivity. The only surviving specimens in Australia's s ... read more

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