The biological clean-ups that could combat age-related disease

Elie Dolgin in Nature:

Salwa Sebti was growing impatient. In 2014, she and her colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center in Dallas had begun tracking mice that had a genetically enhanced ability to detoxify their cells. The goal was to test the anti-ageing effects of boosting autophagy, the biological housekeeping process by which cells rid themselves of damaged components. But it was almost two years — a timespan roughly equivalent to 70 years in humans — before the mice showed any clear signs of health improvements.

It was worth the wait. The animals’ hearts and kidneys had less tissue scarring than usual; spontaneous cancers were kept at bay; and the mice lived approximately 10% longer. As the data finally poured in, Sebti recalls thinking to herself: “Oh wow, we have a strong phenotype.”

Other scientists had previously reported similar age-defying benefits of enhanced autophagy in worms and flies. But the UTSW study was breaking new ground. Spearheaded by Beth Levine — a pioneering autophagy researcher who died of cancer in 2020 — and co-led by two of her former postdocs, Sebti and Álvaro Fernández, it was the first definitive demonstration that boosting the autophagy machinery could promote longevity and well-being in a mammal1.

More here.