New Scientist on Sirtuins

The New Scientist (and some of the interviewed researchers) overhype an interesting discovery: "An overworked protein that causes yeast to age when it neglects one of its functions may trigger ageing in mice too. ... As we get older, genes can start to be expressed in the wrong body tissues - a process that is thought to contribute to diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer's. ... yeast cells [produce] a dual-function protein called Sir2 that, while being involved in DNA repair, also helps keep certain genes switched off. As yeast cells age, the protein can't do both jobs and neglects its role as a gene suppressor. Now Sinclair's team has shown that SIRT1, the mammalian version of Sir2, also begins to neglect its gene-suppressor role in mice whose DNA is damaged, and that this may contribute to ageing. ... The most exciting thing is that this work may unify in a single molecular pathway what we know about ageing in different organisms such as yeast and mammals ... It opens up the possibility of restoring youth in the elderly by re-establishing a useful pattern of gene expression." I think it will take more than restoring gene expression: there's also the matter - more important to my mind - of repairing the damage that caused those changes in gene expression.



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