New research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that manipulating mitochondrial networks inside cells — either by fasting or by a genetic manipulation that mimics dietary restriction — may improve health and increase lifespan. The study titled “Dietary Restriction and AMPK Increase Lifespan via Mitochondrial Network and Peroxisome Remodeling” was published online in Cell Metabolism.
The findings shed light on the cells’ declining ability to process energy over time, which leads to aging and age-related diseases. It also investigates how interventions, such as periods of fasting, might promote healthy aging.
The scientists used C. elegans (nematode worms), which live just two weeks, for their lab experiments.
The researchers found that restricting the worms’ diet — or mimicking dietary restriction through genetic manipulation of an energy-sensing protein called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) — kept the mitochondrial networks in a “youthful” state. They also found that the youthful networks increased the worms’ lifespan by communicating with organelles called peroxisomes to modulate fat metabolism.
The research supports previous studies that suggest intermittent fasting and other ways of dietary restriction can aid in healthier aging.
Heather Weir, lead author of the study, told the Harvard Gazette:
“Low-energy conditions such as dietary restriction and intermittent fasting have previously been shown to promote healthy aging. Understanding why this is the case is a crucial step toward being able to harness the benefits therapeutically. Our findings open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older.”
The next step for the researchers is to test the role mitochondrial networks have in the effect of fasting in mammals.
William Mair, associate professor of genetics and complex diseases at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study, said:
“Although previous work has shown how intermittent fasting can slow aging, we are only beginning to understand the underlying biology. Our work shows how crucial the plasticity of mitochondria networks is for the benefits of fasting. If we lock mitochondria in one state, we completely block the effects of fasting or dietary restriction on longevity.”
Do you practice intermittent fasting, and has it helped you age healthier? Let us know in the comments below!
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