Posted on Sep 21, 2023, 7 p.m.
Targeting tiny amounts of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) to specific areas of cells in adult worms (Caenorhabditis elegans) using an H2S-releasing molecule called AP39 was found to have greatly improved health as well as activity as they aged. The study published in PNAS concluded that targeting H2S specifically to the mitochondria could one day be used as a healthy anti-aging therapeutic.
For this study, AP39 was administered to some worms from birth, and to others after reaching adulthood. The researchers report that the compound was found to improve the integrity of the mitochondria and kept the worms’ muscles active as well as moving well into old age, even when given mid-way through their lifecycle.
A group of proteins was also identified that regulated how genes are expressed in aging, these transcription factors were found to be specifically targeted by H2S. This may open new paths to developing therapies for aging and age-related conditions, in particular conditions affecting the muscles. A number of conditions are linked to loss of mitochondrial function such as natural aging, muscular atrophy, primary mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Worms are a powerful genetic tool to study human health and disease and offer a strong platform to quickly identify new potential therapeutics. Diseases related to ageing take a huge toll on society. Our results indicate that H2S, administered to specific parts of the cell in tiny quantities, could one day be used to help people live healthier for longer.” said senior author Professor Tim Etheridge, of the University of Exeter.
“This study is not about extending life – it’s about living healthier lives well into older age. This could have huge benefits to society. We’re excited to see this research move to the next stages over the coming years, and hope it will one day form the basis of new treatments which we have the potential to develop with MitoRx,” said co-author Professor Matt Whiteman, from the University of Exeter.
“We saw a small extension of lifespan in the worms that were targeted with H2S, and what’s unique here is that we extended healthspan – or the time they lived healthy lives. The worms still died, albeit later than normally expected, but they died very active and with young physiology.”
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