Scientists Find the Gene That Makes Cells Grow Old. Could They ‘Deactivate’ It?

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In a breakthrough discovery, scientists have identified the gene that can kick-start the process of aging in cells. They published the findings in the journal Molecular Omics.

Researchers from the University of Buffalo in New York found out that a gene called CD36 triggers the beginning of aging. After the gene activated the phenomenon, cells cannot divide anymore, and they start withering.

The process of aging is called senescence, and it is a natural phenomenon in every cell’s life cycle. Researchers have long studied senescence, as it contributes to many illnesses, like heart disease, cataracts or arthritis.

In their study, researchers increased CD36 activity in healthy and young cells, and they saw that they started to act as if they were old.

According to Ekin Atilla-Gokcumen, one of the researchers, CD36 seems to be active in old cells, and the discovery was very surprising, because they “didn’t expect that altering expression of one gene could spark it, or cause the same effect in surrounding cells.”

CD36 Appears in Different Tests For Cellular Aging

The researcher’s goal was only to catalog the genes related to cells’ aging, not to investigate CD36. They wanted to check if lipid-related genes are involved in the process of aging because previous studies showed that lipids have a role in cellular aging.

After different tests checking for factors causing cell aging, CD36 emerged repeatedly.

However, the exact role of CD36 is not yet known. Scientists only know that CD36 guides the body in building a protein that covers the surface of cells, but the purpose of that protein is not yet known.

Omer Gokcumen, one of the authors of the study added:

“Our research identifies CD36 as a candidate for further study. Senescence is a fundamental aspect of being a cell, but there is still a lot that we don’t know about it. Senescence seems to have implications for old age and cancer, so understanding it is very important.”

If scientists can cause young and healthy cells to grow old by increasing CD36, what happens if they lower CD36 in old cells? The team must first find out the role of CD36 and then make sure that the reversal of the aging process doesn’t cause more harm than good.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere