Scientists Find New Cause of Cellular Aging–Cells Stop Making Nucleotides–Findings May Have Major Implications for Cancer and Age-Related Conditions

New research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering could be key to our understanding of how the aging process works. The findings potentially pave the way for better cancer treatments and revolutionary new drugs that could vastly improve human health in the twilight years. The work, from Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Nick Graham, PhD, and his team in collaboration with Scott Fraser, PhD, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, and Pin Wang, PhD, Zohrab A. Kaprielian Fellow in Engineering, was published online on May 28, 2019 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The article is titled “Inhibition of Nucleotide Synthesis Promotes Replicative Senescence of Human Mammary Epithelial Cells.” "To drink from the fountain of youth, you have to figure out where the fountain of youth is, and understand what the fountain of youth is doing," Dr. Graham said. "We're doing the opposite; we're trying to study the reasons cells age, so that we might be able to design treatments for better aging." To achieve this, lead author Alireza Delfarah, a graduate student in the Graham lab, focused on senescence, a natural process in which cells permanently stop creating new cells. This process is one of the key causes of age-related decline, manifesting in diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and heart disease. "Senescent cells are effectively the opposite of stem cells, which have an unlimited potential for self-renewal or division," Delfarah said. "Senescent cells can never divide again. It's an irreversible state of cell cycle arrest." The research team discovered that the aging, senescent cells stopped producing nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA.
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