Team succeeds in doubling life span of mice suffering from premature aging

This sent to us from our friend Melody Winnig.

Team succeeds in doubling life span of mice suffering from premature aging
Date: April 1, 2015
Source: Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncologicas (CNIO)
Summary: An increase in the capacity to produce nucleotides, the ‘building blocks’ of DNA, reduces genome fragility and counteracts premature aging in mutant mice for the ATR protein. The experiments may explain the beneficial effects of folic acid, a precursor of nucleotides, which are clinically used to alleviate the degenerative symptoms associated with aging.

Aging is an intrinsic part of life and is the result, among other phenomena, of progressive accumulative damage within cellular DNA. In 2009 researchers from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) under the leadership of Óscar Fernández-Capetillo described how mice with low levels of the ATR protein, essential for the repair of damaged DNA, age faster than normal. A research manuscript published by the same team in Genes & Development describes a method to rescue the premature aging in these mice, doubling their life span. The strategy: to introduce a mutation capable of increasing the body’s capacity to produce nucleotides — the building blocks of DNA, or dNTPs — available in the cells.

The authors based their findings on previous research using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in which high level of nucleotides were shown to improve the viability of mutants of the ATR gene. “Although yeast does not age as such, the mutation of ATR in mice was also pathological, which led us to explore whether an increase in the nucleotides could also alleviate the premature aging seen in those animals,” say the researchers.

In order to know whether the results in mammals might match those obtained in yeast they created a mouse with two genetic alterations: together with the original mutation in ATR that caused the premature aging, the animals contained multiple copies of Rrm2, the key gene for the synthesis of nucleotides. The results showed how the accelerated aging was significantly alleviated in these mice, namely increasing their survival from an average of 24 weeks to 50 weeks.

Of note, ATR-mutant mice were based on a human disease called Seckel syndrome, originally known as “bird-headed dwarfism.” In addition to rescuing the accelerated aging, the other symptoms associated with this disease also improved with this innovative strategy.


The genome of every living being contains certain fragile areas. These are defined due to their tendency to break spontaneously, and they have been shown to be involved in human diseases, including cancer. The studies described in this research paper showed that those mice with additional copies of Rrm2 suffered less DNA breaks in these fragile areas, this being the first mammal described to present a genome which is less fragile than that of a normal mouse.

Whether these results are relevant with respect to normal — rather than premature — aging remains to be discovered. Whatever the case, the authors point out that standard medical practice includes prescribing folic acid (or vitamin B12) supplements to the elderly to delay or lessen the degenerative symptoms associated with advanced age. Bearing in mind that folic acid is, among other things, a precursor molecule in the synthesis of nucleotides, these results might indicate that a scarcity of nucleotides could contribute towards the aging process in humans.
“The question we are asking ourselves now is whether an increase in the capacity to produce nucleotides could also lengthen life expectancy in normal animals without premature aging,” says Fernández-Capetillo. Finding the answer is now in the hands of Andrés López-Contreras, the first author of the article who will now continue these studies as head of his own laboratory at the University of Copenhagen.
Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncologicas (CNIO). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Journal Reference:
1. Andrés J. López-Contreras, Julia Specks, Jacqueline H. Barlow, Chiara Ambrogio, Claus Desler, Svante Vikingsson, Sara Rodrigo-Pérez, Henrik Green, Lene Juel Rasmussen, Matilde Murga, Andre Nussenzweig, Óscar Fernández-Capetillo. Increased Rrm2 gene dosage reduces fragile site breakage and prolongs survival of ATR mutant mice. Genes & Development, March 2015 DOI: 10.1101/gad.256958
Cite This Page:
Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncologicas (CNIO). “Team succeeds in doubling life span of mice suffering from premature aging.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2015.

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About Johnny Adams

My full-time commitment is to slow and ultimately reverse age related functional decline to increase healthy years of life. I’ve been active in this area since the 1970s, steadily building skills and accomplishments. I have a good basic understanding of the science of aging, and have many skills that complement those of scientists so they can focus on science to advance our shared mission. Broad experience Top skills: administration, management, information technology (data and programming), communications, writing, marketing, market research and analysis, public speaking, forging ethical win-win outcomes among stakeholders (i.e. high level "selling"). Knowledge in grant writing, fundraising, finance. Like most skilled professionals, I’m best described as a guy who defines an end point, then figures out how to get there. I enjoy the conception, design, execution and successful completion of a grand plan. Executive Director Gerontology Research Group (GRG). Manages Email discussion forum, web site, meetings and oversees supercentenarian (oldest humans, 110+ years) research. CEO / Executive Director Carl I. Bourhenne Medical Research Foundation (Aging Intervention Foundation), an IRS approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Early contributor to Supercentenarian Research Foundation. Co-Founder Geroscience Healthspan Forum. Active contributor to numerous initiatives to increase healthy years of life. Co-authored book on conventional, practical methods available today to slow the processes of aging – nutrition, exercise, behavior modification and motivation, stress reduction, proper supplementation, damage caused by improper programs, risk reduction and others. Fundamental understanding of, and experience in the genomics of longevity (internship analyzing and curating longevity gene papers). Biological and technical includes information technology, software development and computer programming, bioinformatics and protein informatics, online education, training programs, regulatory, clinical trials software, medical devices (CAT scanners and related), hospital electrical equipment testing program. Interpersonal skills – good communication, honest, well liked, works well in teams or alone. Real world experience collaborating in interdisciplinary teams in fast paced organizations. Uses technology to advance our shared mission. Education: MBA 1985 University of Southern California -- Deans List, Albert Quon Community Service Award (for volunteering with the American Longevity Association and helping an elderly lady every other week), George S. May Scholarship, CA State Fellowship. BA psychology, psychobiology emphasis 1983 California State University Fullerton Physiological courses as well as core courses (developmental, abnormal etc). UCLA Psychobiology 1978, one brief but fast moving and fulfilling quarter. Main interest was the electrochemical basis of consciousness. Also seminars at the NeuroPsychiatric Institute. Other: Ongoing conferences, meetings and continuing education. Aging, computer software and information technology. Some molecular biology, biotech, bio and protein informatics, computer aided drug design, clinical medical devices, electronics, HIPAA, fundraising through the Assoc. of Fundraising Professionals. Previous careers include: Marketing Increasing skill set and successes in virtually all phases, with valuable experience in locating people and companies with the greatest need and interest in a product or service, and sitting across the table with decision makers and working out agreements favorable to all. Information Technology: Management, data analysis and programming in commercial and clinical trials systems, and bioinformatics and protein informatics. As IT Director at Newport Beach, CA based technology organization Success Family of Continuing Education Companies, provided online software solutions for insurance and financial professionals in small to Fortune 500 size companies. We were successful with lean team organization (the slower moving competition was unable to create similar software systems). Medical devices: At Omnimedical in Paramount CA developed and managed quality assurance dept. and training depts. for engineers, physicians and technicians. Designed hospital equipment testing program for hospital services division. In my early 20’s I was a musician, and studied psychology and music. Interned with the intention of becoming a music therapist. These experiences helped develop valuable skills used today to advance our shared mission of creating aging solutions.
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