Friday, July 27, 2007

Cancer-fighting gene also delays ageing

Cancer-fighting gene also delays ageing: study Reuters/Scientific American 7/18/07 "...The findings could also one day lead to new drugs that prevent or fight cancer while extending healthy youth and lifespan, said Manuel Serrano...Serrano said researchers genetically engineered mice to have an extra copy of a key cancer-fighting gene called p53 and found it also played an important role in delaying ageing..."Everyone agrees that the ageing is produced by the accumulation of faulty cells," Serrano said. "In other words, p53 delays ageing for exactly the same reason that it prevents cancer."...Previous cancer studies have shown that p53 can actually cause premature ageing symptoms by killing too many cells when it goes into overdrive, but Serrano said his research strictly regulated the gene so that it turned on only when needed..."The mice lived 16 percent longer in their average lifespan."...Serrano also said that other research has shown that mice and worms that eat less have slower metabolisms and live longer. But his study offers evidence that the mice can benefit from the extra copy of the genes without having to be starved..."There are a number of chemical compounds that have been developed by the big pharmaceutical companies and these compounds are able to boost p53 in the organism," he said...."These compounds are being tested now for their possible anti-cancer activity and hopefully in the light of our study also for their possible anti-ageing activity.""

So this seems to be evidence that the p53 vs longevity framing is wrong. It isn't an either/or relationship, but rather a when/where/how much question. More p53 at the right times and at the right places appears to reduce cancer and increase lifespan. However too much p53 at the wrong time and wrong places appears to shorten lifespan. At least this is the case for mice and fruit flies.

Probably one of the safest ways to increase p53 is through exercise - that's assuming our bodies can get the balance right. Which might be assuming too much. On the diet side, which might be riskier, ellagic acid and quercetin can both increase p53. Curcumin and resveratrol also might increase p53. Milk thistle increases p53 expression. EGCG increases it. Alpha lipoic acid appears to increase it as well. The leaves of ashwagandha does. Triptolide does through an alternate p53 pathway (a plus if certain p53 pathways are inactivated such as in some prostate cancer).

And to complicate matters there's this research from 2005 on fruit flies showing that if you reduce p53 activity in neurons you increase their lifespan by as much as 58%. This seems to be an example of the importance of the location and amount of p53 protein. An interesting part to this research is the connection the scientists made to caloric restriction ""We believe that p53 is part of the caloric restriction life span extension pathway," Helfand said. "It's not the entire explanation, but it appears to play a major role." "

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