The aging process and its debilitating effects on both body and mind seem to be unavoidable. For centuries, humans have dreamed of defying old age with tales of the mythical fountain of youth. Today, scientists are a bit closer, as they have found compounds in nature that may one day unlock the secrets of longevity. In a recent study conducted at Concordia University and Idunn Technologies and published in the journal Oncotarget, scientists have learned how to slow the chronological age of yeast in lab experiments. Using six plant extracts, they decelerated the aging process in samples of yeast more so than any other experiment tried before. The researchers discovered compounds that inhibit the yeast’s pro-aging pathways and proteins. Although no human trials have commenced, the same plant extracts used in the yeast experiments are available on the market in supplement form.
Slowing the Chronological Age of Yeast Cells
The yeast strain used in the experiments:
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Six extracts were obtained from the following plant groups:
- Cimicifuga racemosa
- Valeriana officinalis
- Passiflora incarnata
- Ginkgo biloba
- Apium graveolens L.
- Salix alba
Yeast cells were used in the experiment, because their aging rate is similar to that of human cells. The wild yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae was cultured in flasks at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. The plant extracts were added one at a time with 2% glucose into the yeast cultures. The scientists then monitored the rate of chronological aging in the yeast as they responded to each plant extract. This process was measured at the cellular level. Scientists were measuring pro-aging and anti-aging processes. Each plant extract gave different readings, but the extract from the White Willow tree (Salix alba) was the most potent at slowing the aging process down in the cultured yeast.
Researcher Vladimir Titorenko is one of the senior authors of the study. He says the yeast have nutrient-sensing pathways that accelerate their aging under normal growth conditions. The chemical compounds in the plant extracts obstruct these pathway signals and are responsible for the measured delay in aging of the yeast.
Human Post-Mitotic Cells & Anti-Aging Supplements
The most surprising observation was that human post-mitotic cells are also affected by similar nutrient sensing pathways, suggesting that pharmaceutical manipulation of these beneficial plant compounds may lead to decelerating old age and diseases in humans.
Co-author of the study Éric Simard hypothesized that inhibiting the pathways of post-mitotic cells in humans could delay and slow the growth of many chronic diseases. Some of the diseases noted include heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, and cancer.
Titorenko explained that the six extracts used to slow aging in yeast, are commercially available and approved for human consumption by Health Canada. Five of the extracts have been approved for use in health supplements. The age-defying potential of these plant extracts may be a turning point in the fight for human longevity, but only time will tell.