Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, have identified a secret to aging in yeast cells that could be targeted to improve health and extend life.
The research team was able to uncover a distinct set of genes in yeast cells that can slow or increase the aging process.
“We’re the first to provide evidence for the existence of genetic mechanisms that limit lifespan,” Vladimir Titorenko, biology professor at the Concordia University Faculty of Arts and Science and author of the study, said in a press release.
Researchers exposed yeast to lithocholic acid, an anti-aging natural molecule Titorenko discovered in a prior study. The exposed yeast created long-lived yeast mutants they called “yeast centenarians.”
The mutant yeast cells lived five times longer than the normal yeast cells because their mitochondria, the part of the cell that produces respiration and energy, used more oxygen and made more energy than normal yeast. The mutant yeast centenarians were more resistant to oxidative damage, which causes aging.
“This confirms that lithocholic acid, which occurs naturally in the environment, can not only delay yeast aging but can also force the evolution of exceptionally long-lived yeast,” Titorenko said, who added that these findings could apply to humans as well.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics.
This got me interested in lithocholic acid.
Lithocholic acid, also known as 3α-hydroxy-5β-cholan-24-oic acid or LCA, is a bile acid that acts as a detergent to solubilize fats for absorption. Bacterial action in the colon produces LCA from chenodeoxycholic acid by reduction of the hydroxyl functional group at carbon-7 in the “B” ring of the steroid framework.
It has been implicated in human and experimental animal carcinogenesis. Preliminary in vitro research suggests that LCA selectively kills neuroblastoma cells, while sparing normal neuronal cells and is cytotoxic to numerous other malignant cell types at physiologically relevant concentrations.
Dietary fiber can bind to lithocholic acid and aid in its excretion in stool; as such, fiber can protect against colon cancer.
LCA (and LCA acetate and LCA propionate) can activate the vitamin D receptor without raising calcium levels as much as vitamin D itself.
Other research suggests this bile acid could prevent prostate cancer.
LCA inhibits the proliferation of androgen-dependent (AD) LNCaP prostate cancer cells
Certain foods like dandelion root increase natural bile production.
Bitter artichoke, Cynara cardunculus, also known as cardoon, traditionally recommended by herbalists to stimulate appetite, relieve nausea and improve liver function, increases bile secretion by up to 150 percent. Bitter artichoke has also been shown to reduce abdominal pain, bloating and constipation. Native to the Mediterranean, bitter artichoke is related to the globe artichoke and has a mild, artichoke-like flavor. However, instead of the flower bud, the stalk of the plant is eaten.
To live longer, avoid cancer. Lithocholic can help there.
In a report published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Vladimir Titorenko, a professor of biology at Concordia, and his colleagues show that lithocholic acid, a bile acid produced in the liver, is particularly effective in killing cancer cells.
For the study, the research team tested thousands of chemicals found in the body with the help of a robot and discovered more than 20 that could delay the aging process, something inevitably linked to cancer.
Most effective was lithocholic acid. When entering a cancer cell, the acid goes to “energy factories” called mitochondria and then sends molecular signals that lead to the cells’ demise.
It not only helped slow the aging process but also had an anti-tumour effect, killing cells of breast, prostate and neuroblastoma cancer — in a petri dish, that is.
Indeed, these results aren’t applicable to humans — yet. Titorenko performed the first round of studies using yeast because the ways aging progresses, and the ways it can be delayed by some diets, are similar in both yeast and humans.
“Various cancers are associated with aging — the older you get, the more instances we see of diseases like breast and prostate cancer — so studying how diet can slow that aging process is important,” says Titorenko, who holds a Concordia Research Chair in genomics, cell biology and aging.
In collaboration with Thomas Sanderson from the INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier in Laval, Titorenko is now testing whether the same bile acid can delay the development of prostate cancer in laboratory mice.
If those trials confirm the anti-tumour effect of lithocholic acid, the hope is that it will have a similar effect in human patients, along with the possibility of slowing the human aging process in general.
The study progresses the fundamental knowledge of how to naturally slow down aging of non-cancerous cells as well as how to kill cancer cells.