We all know that none can escape the aging process that happens during an individual’s lifespan. The biological clock is complex and for long remained an impenetrable mystery, but scientists are slowly unlocking the secrets of ageing.
According to an intriguing new study, how well we age is to a certain extent determined by the genes passed down by our mom.
The study found mutated genes handed down by our mothers can accelerate the progression of ageing.
Previous studies have attributed aging to the accrual of cell damage that impairs the function of bodily organs, but experts have never delved on how the aging process can be inherited. In fact the aging process is tied to the changes that occur in the mitochondrion, the cell’s power plant.
Now, researchers suggest that there is more to ageing then wear and tear at the cellular level and that DNA inherited from our mothers can also impact the ageing process.
Lead researcher Nils-Göran Larsson, professor at Karolinska Institutet and principal investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging stated, “What we previously had demonstrated was that the mitochondrial DNA acquired damage as the animals age. But now, we also report that some of this damage is already present at birth, and is transmitted from mother to child.”
To get an insight into the phenomenon, the researchers conducted an animal study. They raised laboratory mice with different measures of DNA damage. To assess their aging rates the rodents were monitored on various aspects of fitness such as weight, fertility and red blood cell count.
The study found that damaged DNA in the mitochondria plays a bigger role in the aging process than mutations in the cell’s nucleus. And mitochondrial DNA is only handed down by the mother.
Larsson said, “The mitochondrion contains its own DNA, which changes more than the DNA in the nucleus, and this has a significant impact on the aging process. Many mutations in the mitochondria gradually disable the cell’s energy production.”
He added, “Surprisingly, we also show that our mother’s mitochondrial DNA seems to influence our own ageing. If we inherit mDNA with mutations from our mother, we age more quickly.”
More research needed
Though the results of the animal study have interesting implications for aging rates in humans, experts concede there is need for further research to substantiate the findings.
“We have used a set of experimental conditions to establish our results, and we think they are applicable to humans, but of course, this has to be proven through human studies,” said Larsson.
The study was published in the journal Nature.