RNA Polymerase III, when inhibited, has proven effective in extending the lifespan of flies and worms. Since this enzyme is common to all species, homo sapiens included, this could signal a coming breakthrough in reducing the rate of aging in adults.
While aging is a fact of life, scientists have been working hard to limit some of the most adverse effects of old age.
As it stands, about 92% of adults between ages 20 and 64 have seen some form of tooth decay, and 6.8 million Americans rely on assistive walking devices to get around. Then there are the diseases that affect us as we age, from dementia to cancer.
Cancer, as an umbrella term for a group of uncontrolled cell growth diseases, is certainly caused by environmental factors, but it is all but inevitable with aging. Roughly 50% of all cancers occur in individuals over 65.
As you age your body begins to break down like all organic matter. Though polymerase III plays a vital role in protein production and cell growth, this new study reveals that when the enzyme’s activity is partially inhibited during adulthood, yeast cells, and subsequently the lifespan of flies and worms, see an average of 10% lifespan extension.
Discussing the experiment’s optimistic longevity indicating results, Danny Flier, first author of the study is reported by Future saying in a press report “As Pol III has the same structure and function across species, we think its role in mammals and humans warrants investigation as it may lead to important therapies.”
The next steps for researchers are to broaden the scope of the study to include a wider array of animals and mammals and further isolate the mechanisms at play in polymerase III that cause accelerated aging. So, what does this all mean for humanity in the future?
A complete account of the causes of aging in humans would help push the tired sci-fi trope of an ‘anti-aging pill’ into the realm of actual possibility. Though this research is certainly a step toward that goal, we are far from seeing young 100-year-olds running down the street. Until that time the research on polymerase III will continue alongside other efforts to better understand why and specifically how we age.