Researchers here observe that triglyceride depletion in very aged muscles produces benefits, looking much like a form of calorie restriction that improves cell metabolism. This work was carried out in killifish, a highly regenerative species, so it remains to be seen as to whether a similar process operates in mammals, or whether it is in any way interesting or novel as a basis for therapy. Finding modest benefits in very late life is a poor alternative to focusing instead on methods of rejuvenation.
Sarcopenia, the age-related decline in muscle function, places a considerable burden on health-care systems. While the stereotypic hallmarks of sarcopenia are well characterized, their contribution to muscle wasting remains elusive, which is partly due to the limited availability of animal models. Here, we have performed cellular and molecular characterization of skeletal muscle from the African killifish - an extremely short-lived vertebrate - revealing that while many characteristics deteriorate with increasing age, supporting the use of killifish as a model for sarcopenia research, some features surprisingly reverse to an "early-life" state in the extremely old stages. This suggests that in extremely old animals, there may be mechanisms that prevent further deterioration of skeletal muscle, contributing to an extension of life span.
In line with this, we report a reduction in mortality rates in extremely old killifish. To identify mechanisms for this phenomenon, we used a systems metabolomics approach, which revealed that during aging there is a striking depletion of triglycerides, mimicking a state of calorie restriction. This results in the activation of mitohormesis, increasing Sirt1 levels, which improves lipid metabolism and maintains nutrient homeostasis in extremely old animals. Pharmacological induction of Sirt1 in aged animals was sufficient to induce a late life-like metabolic profile, supporting its role in life span extension in vertebrate populations that are naturally long-lived. Collectively, our results demonstrate that killifish are not only a novel model to study the biological processes that govern sarcopenia, but they also provide a unique vertebrate system to dissect the regulation of longevity.