Slowing down aging may actually be possible with new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
Scientists from the UVA School of Medicine say some immune cells' mitochondrial dysfunction during calcium signaling plays a role in chronic inflammation linked to accelerated aging.
The mitochondria are all cells' power plants, primarily relying on calcium signals. Although calcium is often linked with strong teeth and bones, it also plays a vital part in blood clotting, promoting muscle contraction, and keeping regular heartbeats and nerve activity.
The UVA Health team, led by Bimal N. Desai, discovered that when immune cells called macrophages age, their mitochondria lose their capacity to receive and use calcium.
They showed how this condition causes persistent inflammation, which is to blame for many age-related health issues. According to the researchers, increasing calcium absorption by these mitochondrial macrophages might prevent this dangerous inflammation and its adverse effects.
All of our bodily organs, including the brain, contain macrophages; thus, targeting these "tissue-resident macrophages" with medications may help us halt the progression of age-related neurodegenerative illnesses.
Desai claims they believe they have achieved a significant conceptual advancement in their knowledge of the underlying molecular mechanisms of age-associated inflammation.
"This discovery illuminates new therapeutic strategies to interdict the inflammatory cascades that lie at the heart of many cardiometabolic and neurodegenerative diseases."- Desai
White blood cells called macrophages are essential for properly functioning our immune systems and, therefore, our health. As they ingest dead or dying cells, our bodies can clear out cell waste and search for infections and other invading organisms. They serve as vital immune system sentinels in this latter capacity, enlisting the assistance of other immune cells when necessary.
Desai and his coworkers claim a "keystone" mechanism responsible for the modifications brought on by aging in macrophages has been found.
The researchers found that these modifications put macrophages at risk for enduring low-grade inflammation even under optimal conditions.
Immune cells may also overreact when they encounter an invader or tissue harm. As a result, chronic inflammation that speeds up aging is called "inflammaging." Additionally, the UVA Health experts think that a range of extra immune cells that resemble macrophages formed in the bone marrow will also work according to the strategy.
Since people become more susceptible to diseases with age, researchers can also enhance the appropriate functioning of those cells. This significantly boosts our immune systems, potentially allowing slow aging. It won't be as easy as taking a calcium supplement to reverse "inflammaging." The issue is not so much a lack of calcium as it is improper calcium utilization by macrophages.
The precise molecular machinery underlying this process has now been identified due to the team's findings. Thus, the researchers should be able to find ways to activate it in aged cells and bring slow aging.
What are some foods high in calcium?
Consuming calcium through food is another great way to uptake your calcium level. Some foods rich in calcium include:
- Dairy goods, such as milk or cheese
- Broccoli, cabbage, and okra
"This highly interdisciplinary research effort, at the interface of computational biology, immunology, cell biology, and biophysics, wouldn't have been possible without the determination of Phil Seegren, the graduate student who spearheaded this ambitious project," added Desai.
He concludes: "Now, moving forward, we need an equally ambitious effort to figure out the wiring that controls this mitochondrial process in different types of macrophages and then manipulate that wiring in creative ways for biomedical impact."
- Nature Aging. Reduced mitochondrial calcium uptake in macrophages is a major driver of inflammaging.
- Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy. Aging and aging-related diseases: from molecular mechanisms to interventions and treatments.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Microglia in Neuroinflammation and Neurodegeneration: From Understanding to Therapy.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Calcium.
- NHS. Food for healthy bones.