According to researchers from Harvard University's school of public health, manipulating the energy-sensing pathway in the central nervous system can cause organisms to perceive their cells to be in a low-energy state, even if they are eating normally and energy levels are high.

The study led by Kristopher Burkewitz and senior author William Mair focused on a molecule called "AMP-activated protein kinase" (AMPK). It acts as a molecular fuel gauge to detect energy levels.The researchers found that AMPK inhibited the activity of a protein called CRTC-1 in neurons.

This process, in turn, controlled the behaviour of mitochondria - the cell's powerhouse where energy is generated - throughout the organism, by altering production of a neurotransmitter.

The researchers were struck by the fact that altering the AMPK pathway in just a limited set of neurons was sufficient to override its effects on metabolism and longevity in other tissues.

Ageing was influenced more by what the animals perceived they were eating than what they actually ate."Drugs targeting the cells' energy-sensors in this way could potentially address age-related diseases, including cancer and neurodegeneration, and may offer an alternative to caloric restriction," the authors noted.

The study was published in the journal Cell.

 

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