Killifish Lose Central Nervous System Regeneration with Age

Killifish are one of the species capable of scar-free regeneration of organs following injury, a capability that researchers suspect exists in humans and other mammals, suppressed after early development, but accessible given the right manipulation of genetic controls, yet to be discovered. The study here notes that killifish appear to lose this capability in later life. Having a species that exhibits both proficient and limited regeneration under different circumstances may point the way towards specific genes and mechanisms relevant to the goal of enabling proficient regeneration in human patients. Or it may be entirely irrelevant to inter-species differences, a peculiarity unique to killifish. The only way to find out is to follow the thread and see where it leads.

Over the recent years, the fast-aging African turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri) has emerged as an excellent biogerontology model, Despite having a lifecycle of only a few months, killifish do age. They even age in a similar way as humans, presenting many of the well-described aging hallmarks, yet often magnified and occurring within a much shorter time frame. Interestingly, killifish appear to pay a price for their fast growth and aging. In contrast to zebrafish - that maintain their neuroreparative ability albeit regenerate less efficiently at old age - killifish completely lose their regeneration capacity at old age and are unable to fully recover from central nervous system (CNS) injury.

Using an optic nerve crush injury model in killifish of different ages, we indeed revealed that, in contrast to young fish, aged animals do not regain vision following damage. An inadequate intrinsic capacity of aged retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) to revert to a "regenerative state" as well as a growth-inhibiting neuron-extrinsic environment seem to contribute to this impairment, similar to what has been described for (young) adult mammals. We postulate that age-associated changes within neurons and their glial environment - already manifesting before damage occurs- negatively affect the regeneration potential of the killifish CNS, which then leads to a mammalian-like regenerative response upon injury.

With increasing age, we revealed reduced expression levels of growth-associated genes in retinal neurons, thereby affecting the intrinsic ability of RGCs to regrow their axons. Additionally, oxidative stress was shown to pile up in the aged killifish retina, which is known to lead to mitochondrial dysfunction and therefore very likely contributes to failure of the energy-demanding regenerative process. Next to neuron-intrinsic changes, we observed signs of astrogliosis, inflammaging, and a senescence-associated secretory phenotype upon aging, which might sensitize the old killifish CNS and result in growth-unfavorable glial reactivity upon injury.

The onset of astrogliosis and a chronic inflammatory status in the killifish CNS during physiological aging seems to result in a more extensive and extended glial reactivity upon nerve injury, which is known to be detrimental for regeneration in mammals. Strikingly, the exaggerated neuroinflammatory events then result in the formation of a long-term glial scar. In summary, it seems that explosive growth and/or fast aging eventually turns the killifish CNS into a regeneration-incompetent organ. By shifting its regenerative potential from high to low with increasing age and forming a glial scar following CNS injury, the killifish puts itself in the exceptional position of resembling (young) adult mammals when at old age.



@Fitzy: thanks for pointing that out. It is in the queue.

Posted by: Reason at April 20th, 2022 9:01 AM

@Reason - this study represents a bit of a problem for the SENS approach to ending aging as they always assumed that somatic DNA mutations were not a significant contributor to aging. This being due to the DNA repair machinery needed to prevent cancer needing to repair DNA to a better state than is needed to stop somatic mutations contributing to aging.

I always felt this was a bit of wishful thinking by the SENS RF.

How to repair somatic mutiations in every cell in the body now becomes a salient problem right?

Posted by: jimofoz at April 20th, 2022 9:48 AM

To much buzz around this paper...
First, they found only correlation and no causation, they can explain their findings with faster senecent cell buildup, but not mutation to disfunction cause-effect.
Second, they checked the gut epithelium of all the animals. These cells are one of the fastest replicating cells in our body, replaced each 24h. Whats does it say about the other cells in our body?
Third, the strongest evidence against it is that antioxidants dont have any effect on the lifespan of long lived animals.

Posted by: Alfi at April 20th, 2022 11:18 AM

I'm with Alfi on this one. Somatic mutations just aren't that important, unless they generate a cancer. The primary genetic code determines amino acid sequences. Changes in those sequences are unlikely to lead to important changes in protein function or expression levels, except when they cause a single cell to go rogue and divide selfishly.

I'm becoming far more convinced that age-related changes in epigenetic patterns, which may be secondary to DSB repair, can produce regular changes in gene expression and cellular/tissue/organ function that we recognize as aging: the steady loss of homeostasis and consequent loss of resilience to stress that ultimately leads to loss of capacity and death.

There's no doubt that evolutionary pressure has forced continuous improvement of DNA maintenance mechanisms, but I don't see evidence that it is rate limiting in aging processes. Show me a causal link between somatic mutation and the Hallmarks and I'll reconsider, but the present data point to other hallmarks like epigenetic changes and senescent cell accumulation as strong influencers of other hallmarks, with little evidence for DNA sequence mutations acting as a driver.

Posted by: Robert Cargill at April 21st, 2022 2:18 PM

Thanks Reason.

Posted by: Fitzy at April 26th, 2022 2:15 PM
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