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Greek Scientists Discover Cellular Mechanism that Controls Aging

original_053Scientists of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the Foundation for Research and Technology in Crete discovered a new cellular mechanism that coordinates the process of building and destruction of mitochondria, thereby regulating aging.
Researchers Constantinos Palikaras and Irene Lionaki, led by Professor of the Medical School of the University of Crete and Director of IMBB Nektarios Tavernarakis, shed light on an important biological mechanism that controls aging. Their research has been published in “Nature” magazine.
Unknown until now, there is an important molecular signaling “path” which coordinates the creation and, simultaneously, the destruction of mitochondria in the cells during aging, thereby determining the lifespan of an individual.
Mitochondria are organelles that are the “power plants” of the cell and are essential for many vital cellular functions. Each human cell contains hundreds of mitochondria and malfunctions in those responsible for serious medical conditions, such as cardiomyopathy, neuromuscular disorders, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and others.
Until now, it was unknown precisely how cells coordinate two competing processes, the creation of new mitochondria and the recycling of organelle waste, in order to ensure normal cell function and support long-term survival of the human organism.
For experimentation, the Greek scientists used the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. They found a protein (the DCT-1 / NIX) on the surface of mitochondria that constitutes the main “switch” mechanism. Said protein is a component of mitochondria in humans as well. The function of this protein is to maintain the proper mitochondrial function, removing the damaged mitochondria and creating new and healthy ones.
According to the IMBB researchers’ findings, this sophisticated molecular mechanism allows cells to increase or decrease the number of mitochondria depending on their energy needs and exposure to endogenous and exogenous stress factors.
The research results are considered to be highly important in understanding aging in humans. it is expected that they will be used to treat diseases characterized by uncontrolled accumulation of mitochondria, such as cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.

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