Making Human Cells More Resistant to Damage

Are there practical, safe, comparatively simple ways to make human cells more resistant to damage, and thereby reduce the effects of aging and disease? Perhaps, and here is an example of this sort of research: researchers "have discovered a molecule that can make brain cells resistant to programmed cell death or apoptosis. ... This molecule, a tiny strand of nucleotides called microRNA-29 or miR-29, has already been shown to be in short supply in certain neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease. Thus, the discovery could herald a new treatment to prompt brain cells to survive in the wake of neurodegeneration or acute injury like stroke. ... There is the real possibility that this molecule could be used to block the cascade of events known as apoptosis that eventually causes brain cells to break down and die. ... The researchers looked at a number of steps in apoptosis and found that miR-29 acts at a key point in the initiation of apoptosis by interacting with a group of genes called the BH3-only family. Interestingly, the microRNA appears to interact with not just one but as many as five members of that family, circumventing a redundancy that existed to allow cell death to continue even if one of them had been blocked." This is somewhat a damage resistance strategy - it doesn't block damage, but it stops a cell from destroying itself in response to damage. This may allow certain classes of cell to continue functioning usefully under some forms of attack (such as the neurodegenerative conditions mentioned above), but as a general strategy it has flaws - cells usually destroy themselves for good reason. Having malfunctioning cells stick around rather than remove themselves is not a good thing in most tissues.



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