Posted on Dec 04, 2012, 6 a.m.
German researchers uncover how the Hydra, a freshwater organism, appears to avoid showing signs of aging, with potential insights into the mechanisms of human aging.
The Hydra, a freshwater organism, has an unlimited lifespan, due in large part to the indefinite self-renewal capacity of its stem cells. Anna-Marei Boehm, from Christian-Albrechts-University (Germany), and colleagues identified the transcription factor forkhead box O (FoxO) as one of the critical drivers of this continuous self-renewal. Specifically, FoxO overexpression he caused signs of aging, specifically in immune function; whereas FoxO down-regulation led to an increase in the number of terminally differentiated cells – resulting in a drastically reduced population growth rate, and caused down-regulation of stem cell genes and antimicrobial peptide (AMP) expression. Submitting that this data "demonstrates for the first time that there is a direct link between the FoxO gene and aging, the study authors submit that: "These findings … indicate an evolutionarily conserved role of FoxO in controlling longevity [with] implications for understanding cellular aging.”
Anna-Marei Boehm, Konstantin Khalturin, Friederike Anton-Erxleben, Georg Hemmrich, Ulrich C. Klostermeier, Javier A. Lopez-Quintero, et al. “FoxO is a critical regulator of stem cell maintenance in immortal Hydra.” PNAS 2012 109 (48) 19697-19702; November 12, 2012.