8/8/2013 10:08:01 AM
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LA JOLLA, Calif., August 8, 2013 — Scientists at Sanford---Burnham Medical
Research Institute have identified a key factor that regulates the autophagy
process, a kind of cleansing mechanism for cells in which waste material and
cellular debris is gobbled up to protect cells from damage, and in turn,
modulates aging. The findings, published in Nature Communications today, could
lead to the development of new therapies for age---related disorders that are
characterized by a breakdown in this process.
Malene Hansen, Ph.D., associate professor in Sanford---Burnham’s Del E. Webb
Center for Neuroscience, Aging and Stem Cell Research, and her team as well as
collaborators found a transcription factor—an on/off switch for genes—that
induces autophagy in animal models, including the nematode C. elegans, the
primary model organism studied in the Hansen lab. This transcription factor,
called HLH---30, coordinates the autophagy process by regulating genes with
functions in different steps of the process. Two years ago, researchers discovered
a similar transcription factor, or orthologue, called TFEB that regulates
autophagy in mammalian cells.
“HLH---30 is critical to ensure longevity in all of the long---lived C. elegans strains
we tested,” says Hansen. “These models require active HLH---30 to extend
lifespan, possibly by inducing autophagy. We found this activation not only in
worm longevity models, but also in dietary---restricted mice, and we propose the
mechanism might be conserved in higher organisms as well.”
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (P50 AG005131),
the National Institute on Aging (F31 AG029222, R01 AG038664, R01 AG039756),
the NIGMS (R01 GM101056).
The study was co---authored by C. Daniel De Magalhaes Filho, Glenn Center for
Aging, Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Philip R. McQuary, Sanford---
Burnham; Chu---Chiao Chu, Sanford---Burnham; Jessica T. Chang, Sanford---
Burnham; Sara Gelino, Sanford---Burnham; Binnan Ong, Sanford---Burnham;
Andrew E. Davis, Sanford---Burnham; Javier E. Irazoqui, Harvard Medical School;
and Andrew Dillin, Glenn Center for Aging, Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
About Sanford---Burnham Medical Research Institute
Sanford---Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the
fundamental molecular causes of diseases and devising the innovative therapies
of tomorrow. Sanford---Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical
research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and
infectious, inflammatory and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for
its National Cancer Institute---designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug
discovery technologies. Sanford---Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute
that employs 1,200 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), California, and
Orlando (Lake Nona), Florida. For more information, visit us at
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