January 9, 2020

We can’t stop aging—but can we slow down its consequences?

Scientists at the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) on the Texas Biomedical Research Institute campus are working to find an answer using an animal model that continues to prove effective in this area.

Associate Professor Corinna Ross, PhD, and Professor Suzette Tardif, PhD, along with a team of researchers, conducted a study on adult marmosets (ages 2-17) that had been transferred to SNPRC from the New England Primate Center in 2015. Marmosets, in general, are recognized as an ideal nonhuman primate model of aging because they have relatively short lifespans and share age-related diseases similar to those of people.

Scientists took blood samples from the animals before and after the move, then re-evaluated them two years later. The team found that low levels of tryptophan metabolism were found to be associated with an increased risk of death.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is linked to the production of serotonin, the chemical in the brain that contributes to feelings of happiness. Scientists aren’t yet sure whether serotonin influences aging, but there is a link between levels of tryptophan and health, Ross indicated.

The study also found that the metabolism of two other amino acids, betaine and methionine, were associated with aging regardless of environmental factors like stress. The results of the study suggest that the levels of metabolism of these three amino acids could be potential biomarkers for aging and related health issues.

This is “one of the first studies to discover metabo-lites (small molecules) [the levels of which] predict future mortality over a several year time span,” the authors concluded.

Following this study, marmosets may help scientists understand the subtleties of physiological aging and find ways to fight its negative health effects.

Curious about what other factors affect aging? NPRC research indicates the amount of calories you consume could have an impact as well.

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