As we grow older, not only the function of organs slows down. Also on a cellular level more and more damages occur. One reason is that DNA errors accumulate which cause defective cells. Now a team of researchers lead by Nils-Gran Larsson at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne has shown that ageing is determined not only by the accumulation of DNA damage that occurs during lifetime but also by damage that we acquire from our mothers. In a study on mice, the researchers have shown that mutations of maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA influence the offspring's ageing process starting from birth.
Ageing is a complex process, in the course of which more and more damage accumulates within the bodies' tissues, cells and molecules with serious consequences: Organs lose their function and mortality risk increases. Why some people age faster than others has many reasons that are still unsolved. However, damage that occurs within the mitochondria the cell's powerhouses seems to be of particular importance for ageing.
"The mitochondrion contains its own DNA, the so-called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA, which changes faster than the DNA in the nucleus, and this has a significant impact on the ageing process," says Nils-Gran Larsson, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne and scientist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Together with Lars Olson, also a scientist at the Karolinska Institute, he has led the study.
"Many mutations in the mitochondria gradually disable the cell's energy production." Contrary to previous findings, not only mutations that accumulate during lifetime play a role: "Surprisingly, we discovered that our mother's mitochondrial DNA seems to influence our own ageing," says James Stewart, a researcher in Larsson's department. "If mice inherit mtDNA with mutations from their mother, they age more quickly." Thus, some of the mutations that cause ageing are already prese
|Contact: Nils-Göran Larsson|