One of the major goals of scientists is to increase the longevity of humans. Our lifespan has been increasing for a long time, but we all want to live longer and healthier lives. Now a team of scientists led by UCL has found that a moderate dietary restriction extend lifespan in flies. Well, technically, the lifespan of flies can be increased by limiting the activity of a group of proteins called GATA transcription factors.
Reducing nutrient intake without causing malnourishment has been proven to increase lifespan of mice, flies and some other animals. Now scientists are noticing that limiting GATA TF has the same effect. Interestingly, scientists have noticed that long time ago, although this phenomenon took some time to be confirmed. In fact, scientists have been looking at the molecular causes for longer lifespan of people who consume fewer calories since 1935. That is why now scientists directed their attention towards GATA TF, which is very important for health across animals including humans.
Limiting dietary intake has negative effects as well. First of all, you may feel hungry, although the goal is to keep you away from malnourishment. Secondly, it may have negative implications for fertility and fitness. However, limiting GATA TF has all the positives with no negatives. Scientists tested this with fruit flies, which are commonly chosen for similar studies because genetically they are a little bit similar to humans, while still being easy and cheap to maintain. Scientists reduced protein intake in one group and limited GATA TF expression in another. The result was virtually the same, except that limiting GATA TF did not produce the usual negative side effects associated with reduced protein content in the diet.
But what does this mean? Scientists think that GATA TF is affected when some protein is removed from the diet. Dr Matthew Piper, co-author of the study, said: “Our study suggests that this transcription factor family plays a role in how lifespan changes when dietary protein is reduced. Because this same gene is also found in mice and humans we think this may be a fundamentally important new insight into the way ageing is controlled in response to diet”.
Now scientists are planning the next steps. They are going to try and see what exactly GATA TF does at the molecular level and if limiting it does in fact mimic the same effects seen in food intake reduction. It is still not clear if it’s the correct path to increasing human longevity, but it is certainly one of the possible directions for future research.