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Clues to ageing hearts in animal studies

A mutated gene, found in some people over the age of 100, can ‘rewind’ the biological clock of a mouse’s heart by a decade.

The research, led by the University of Bristol, UK, and IRCCS MultiMedica, in Milan, Italy, showed that a variant of the BPIFB4 gene (thought to protect against age-related heart conditions) could improve heart function in elderly mice back to that seen in a younger mouse – the equivalent of a decade in humans.

The team also found that there were similar improvements to heart cells that were taken from elderly patients with heart problems.

As a protein-based treatment can be safer than one based on genes, the researchers are now interested in whether using a protein instead, made with the BPIFB4 gene, may also work.

Monica Cattaneo, of MultiMedica, and first author of the study, explained that by adding the ‘longevity gene/protein’, they had witnessed a process of cardiac ‘rejuvenation’.

Meanwhile, a US study led by Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, analysed the DNA of 23 species of rockfish – some species of which live to more than 100 years – and identified a new biological pathway linked to anti-ageing in humans. This included genes that had not previously been associated with longevity.

Dr Stephen Treaster, at Harvard, said: “It seems to me we can find answers in animals that have already solved the problem of surviving disease-free for more than a century in unforgiving natural environments. We just need to ask the right questions in the right models.”


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