Researchers have found that a substance - the coenzyme NAD+ -- can both help extend life and postpone the onset of the ageing processes.
The researches also believe that the new findings, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, will be able to help prevent neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Even though the researchers have only examined the effect of the substance on model organisms and not administered the substance to patients, they expect to see the same effect in humans, as the cell repair mechanisms are universal for the cells of all living organisms.
"We were surprised to see that adding NAD+ postponed both the aging processes of the cells and extended life in worms and in a mouse model," said one of the researchers Vilhelm Bohr, Professor at Centre for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
Previous research has shown that a main process in ageing is the capacity of the cells to keep our genes, our DNA, more or less intact. However, changes in the cells' power stations, the mitochondria, also affect aging processes.
In this study the international team of researchers from University of Copenhagen and the National Institute of Health in the US showed that the substance NAD+ bridges the gap between two main aging theories -- repairs to the DNA and poor functioning mitochondria.
The researchers have bred mice and roundworm with the illness Ataxia telangiectasia, A-T, for the purpose of the study.
In these patients the part of the brain that is responsible for coordination gradually degenerates, DNA repairs are lacking, and they experience other symptoms characteristic of early aging.
The study also indicated that damage to the DNA can result in poor functioning mitochondria, and that this can lead to increasing neurodegeneration in A-T patients.
Adding the substance NAD+ can stop the damage to the mitochondria, the study showed.
"We know from previous studies that a drop in the level of NAD+ results in metabolism errors, neurodegeneration and aging, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear to us. Our new study stresses that the substance NAD+ plays a main role both in maintaining the health of the cells' power stations and in their capacity for repairing the genes," Bohr said.
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