This Japanese plant could help preserve your youth

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A Japanese plant commonly found in herb gardens could hold the secret to anti-aging, say international researchers. The study investigated a compound known as 4,4’-dimethoxychalcone (DMC) found in the leaves and stalks of the Ashitaba plant, and found that it helped to protect cells and delay ageing in yeast, mice, flies, and human cells. The Ashitaba plant is a relative of the carrot family, and is used in Japan for food and traditional medicine.

Journal/conference: Nature Communications

Link to research (DOI): 10.1038/s41467-019-08555-w

Organisation/s: University of Graz, Austria

Funder: See paper.

Media release

Ageing: Natural compound with conserved anti-ageing properties

A natural compound has been identified that protects cells and delays ageing in species including yeast, worms and human cells in culture, reports a Nature Communications article published this week.

Ageing causes specific changes in the cell, and most manipulations known to extend lifespan stimulate a process in cells called autophagy. Autophagy is a recycling program that removes and degrades damaged cellular components including proteins and organelles, generating raw material to build new molecules. Compromised autophagy can result in age-related pathologies, including neurodegenerative disorders, when toxic or damaged molecules accumulate in the cell.

Frank Madeo and colleagues screened flavonoids, a group of plant-derived molecules known to promote cellular health, for anti-ageing effects in yeast cells. They identified 4,4’-dimethoxychalcone (DMC), a flavonoid naturally found in Angelica keiskei koidzumi leaves, as a lifespan-extending treatment in yeast, worms, and flies that also reduces age-associated cellular decline in human cells in culture. Treatment with DMC protected heart cells in mice after prolonged myocardial ischemia (reduced blood flow to the heart) leading to a smaller area of tissue death. The protective effects of DMC were found to require activation of autophagy and lead to systemic changes in metabolism that are conserved across species.

These observations confirm a conserved role for autophagy in cellular protection and longevity extension and represent a step in the identification and development of pharmacological anti-ageing therapies. However, additional research is required to determine if this is a promising strategy to prevent age-related decline in humans.


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