Gerontology claims that for many centuries the average life expectancy of people was small — about 15-20 years. Then a man who lived to be 30 years old was looked at with admiration. At the moment, we are impressed by centenarians whose age exceeds 100 years. It turns out that this is not the limit. Working towards healthy longevity, Scottish scientists have found a way to prolong life. Now the secret of genetic immortality is revealed. In this article, we will consider what it consists of and what are the prospects for research in this direction.
Scottish scientists from the University of Edinburgh have discovered a defense mechanism against disorders that block genetic immortality. During the study, it was found that the SPOCD1 protein is an important aspect in preventing harm to spermatozoa, which is of great importance at the first stages of growth. The study of hidden processes that protect spermatozoa explains how the process of transmission of genetic information occurs.
Since germ cells undergo a process by which the genotype of an organism “communicates” with the environment to create its phenotype and provides the basis for individual variations and uniqueness of cells – epigenetic reprogramming, they become quite vulnerable to transposons – “jumping genes” or mobile genetic elements capable of movement and reproduction within the genome. They can harm genes that block proteins, which in turn contributes to infertility. Germ cells are a significant link between generations, but they need unique strategies to protect genetic data.
The transmission and realization of hereditary information is the task of germ cells. Due to the help of the protein, methyl groups (CH3-) are attached to DNA, as a result of which the transposons become blocked. The study showed that those experimental mice that did not have this protein became infertile. But if SPOCD1 combines with another protein, MIWI2, then the body activates a protective function against jumping genes. The Scottish scientists also noted that SPOCD1 has a connection with many molecules that take part in the regulation of mobile parts of the genome.
Many biologists continue to work on solving genetic mysteries that can overcome the phenomenon of aging at the cellular level. It has been established that the human body ages as cells gradually lose their ability to divide. Telomeres are responsible for this function – these are the end sections of a linear DNA molecule that prevent the decay of new cells. They shorten every time a cell divides, and when the length becomes even small, the cell loses the ability to divide.
However, in 1951, scientists found unique cells from the cancer tumor of patient Henrietta Lacks, named HeLa. Their uniqueness lies in the fact that they are able to produce the enzyme telomerase, which “grows” new telomeres at the ends of chromosomes. With this opportunity, HeLa cells can divide endlessly and are still a close object of study in the direction of immortality.
Looking for all possible details of solving the secret of genetic immortality, scientists are trying to figure out the mechanisms of the production of the enzyme telomerase, which is the “green light” to cellular immortality of a person, as well as to accustom the cells of the body to produce it without outside help. It is important to note that for the discovery and study of this enzyme, a group of scientists from the United States received the Nobel Prize in 2009.