Test tubes `fight age-related diseases`

Scientists have discovered a process through which ageing-related diseases may develop.

Last Updated: Mar 23, 2011, 11:47 AM IST

Washington: In what may pave the way for a new generation of treatments for Alzheimer`s and heart disease, scientists claim to have discovered a process through which ageing-related diseases may develop.
An international team, led by Professor Chris Easton and Dr Dannon Stigers of Australian National University, has used test tubes to simulate living body and revealed the new way that ageing-related diseases can progress.

"Remarkably the good old test tube has given us a fantastic window from which to look into the basic processes necessary for life and it has changed the way we think about how ageing related diseases develop," said Dr Stigers.

It had been assumed that lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and smoking caused some people to develop ageing-related illnesses rapidly than others. Poor lifestyle decisions increase exposure to free radicals which can damage proteins in the body leading to eventual disease.

But, in their research, the scientists were able to observe proteins being made with their building blocks already damaged, indicating there are two possible pathways to age related disease development that can be exploited for future treatments, the `Chemistry Communications` journal reported.

"We are not saying that a healthy lifestyle is not important to prevent early onset of age-related disease, but we now need to acknowledge that it may not be enough to advise people to eat the right foods and exercise regularly," said Dr Stigers.

In their test tube of life, the team added all the necessary machinery to make proteins, including both damaged and healthy protein building blocks, and a type of biological proof-reader that ensures proteins are made with only the healthy building blocks. They then looked to see if any of the damaged building blocks made it into the finished protein.

"We were surprised to find that the damaged building blocks were able to effectively compete for incorporation into the final protein even when our proof-reader was present," said Prof Easton.

"It may seem subtle but from a treatment perspective the difference between preventing a protein from being damaged and dealing with one that is made from damaged goods is vast.

This is a significant breakthrough and one which we hope will prove revolutionary in terms of tackling age-related diseases," he added.

PTI