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Altering perception of food can extend healthspan

A homeless man is silhouetted as he eats his meal under a bridge in Metro Manila April 26, 2009. REUTERS/John Javellana (PHILIPPINES SOCIETY)
A homeless man is silhouetted as he eats his meal under a bridge in Metro Manila April 26, 2009. REUTERS/John Javellana (PHILIPPINES SOCIETY)

Washington: It is well documented that calorie restriction (CR) has extended lifespan on countless species and now, a team of researchers are claiming that altering the perception of food can also give the same result.

Researchers at the Buck Institute showed a new effect on aging via a small drug-like molecule that alters the perception of food in the nematode C. elegans.

They “tricked” the worm’s metabolism into a state of caloric restriction, extending the animal’s lifespan by 50 percent. The study provides a new avenue of inquiry for researchers around the world who are attempting to develop human drugs that mimic the positive effects of a Spartan diet. Caloric restriction has shown to extend life-and-healthspan in simple animals and mice.

“This small molecule blocks the detection of food in the worm’s mouth,” said senior author Gordon Lithgow. “The worm senses that its mouth is empty even when it is full of food, tricking the animal into shifting its physiology into a caloric restricted-state even when it’s eating normally,” he said. “Our study suggests that primary sensory pathways represent new targets for human pharmacology.”

Lead author Mark Lucanic screened 30,000 synthetic, drug-like compounds in nematodes and identified several structurally related compounds that acted on mechanisms tied to caloric restriction. He found that the small molecule, NP1, impinged upon a food perception pathway by promoting glutamate signaling in the pharynx of the animal.

“The chemical activated a neurotransmitter-controlled food deprivation signal which altered the animal’s normal metabolism into a caloric restriction state,” Lucanic said.

The study is published in Aging Cell. (ANI)

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