Nav: Home

Genetic memory of starvation may curtail lifespan of men

December 05, 2016

New Tel Aviv University research suggests that periods of fasting or starvation may significantly shorten the lifespans of both children and their male descendants.

The study focused on survivors of a mass famine that took place in the early 1920s in several rural regions of Russia. It was led by Prof. Eugene Kobyliansky of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine and conducted by doctoral student Dmitry Torchinsky of TAU's Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, in collaboration with Dr. Leonid Kalichman of Ben-Gurion University's Department of Physical Therapy and Prof. David Karasik of Bar Ilan University's Faculty of Medicine in the Galilee. Its conclusions were published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"A variety of experimental and epidemiological studies have tried to propose that intermittent or periodic fasting, like caloric restriction, may slow the aging process and extend lifespans," said Prof. Kobyliansky. "But there is also evidence demonstrating that even moderate caloric restriction may not extend but, on the contrary, can shorten the human lifespan."

A lesson from Russia

Past research suggests a strong correlation between telomere dynamics and the processes that determine human aging and lifespan. Telomeres, compound structures at the end of each chromosome that protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration, are the genetic key to longevity. They shorten with every chromosome replication cycle.

The team evaluated telomere lengths in a population-based sample comprised of survivors of the mass famine of the early 1920s and in the survivors' descendants, who originated from Chuvashia, a rural area in the mid-Volga region of Russia. In Chuvashia, the proportion of starving inhabitants reached 90% in late March 1922, and mortality among starving peasants reached between 30-50%. The situation only began to improve in April 1923. By the end of that year, the mass famine in Chuvashia was considered over.

The researchers arrived at three major discoveries: (1) There were shorter leukocyte telomeres in men born after 1923 after the mass famine ended than in men born before 1922; (2) there was a stable inheritance of shorter telomeres by men born in ensuing generations; and (3) there was an absence of any correlation between shorter telomeres and women born before or after the event.

"This study, while demonstrating that starvation has the potential to shorten telomere length, raises several questions," said Prof. Kobyliansky. "Does starvation exert a stronger effect on telomere length in the reproductive cells of adults than in the leukocytes of children? Is starvation-induced telomere shortening a sex-dependent phenomenon? And would fasting regimens exerting beneficial effects be accompanied by telomere shortening in descendants?"

The team is currently considering experimental in vivo studies to answer these and other questions.
-end-
Tel Aviv University (TAU) is inherently linked to the cultural, scientific and entrepreneurial mecca it represents. It is one of the world's most dynamic research centers and Israel's most distinguished learning environment. Its unique-in-Israel multidisciplinary environment is highly coveted by young researchers and scholars returning to Israel from post-docs and junior faculty positions in the US.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU) enthusiastically and industriously pursues the advancement of TAU in the US, raising money, awareness and influence through international alliances that are vital to the future of this already impressive institution.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Related Telomeres Articles:

New insight into how telomeres protect cells from premature senescence
Researchers at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have further uncovered the secrets of telomeres, the caps that protect the ends of our chromosomes.
Discovery by NUS researchers improves understanding of cellular aging and cancer development
A team of researchers led by Dr Dennis Kappei, a Special Fellow from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore at the National University of Singapore, has discovered the role of the protein ZBTB48 in regulating both telomeres and mitochondria, which are key players involved in cellular ageing.
High levels of exercise linked to 9 years of less aging at the cellular level
Despite their best efforts, no scientist has ever come close to stopping humans from aging.
Longer telomeres may shield mice from age-related human diseases
Researchers in Deepak Srivastava's laboratory at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease hypothesized that mice may be protected from age-associated human diseases due to the relatively longer length of their telomeres, the regions at the end of chromosomes that help guard against deterioration.
Longer telomeres protect against diseases of aging: A tale of mice and men
Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes discovered a key mechanism that protects mice from developing a human disease of aging, and begins to explain the wide spectrum of disease severity often seen in humans.
'In vivo' reprogramming induces signs of telomere rejuvenation
During the 'in vivo' reprogramming process, cellular telomeres are extended due to an increase in endogenous telomerase.
TSRI scientists discover master regulator of cellular aging
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a protein that fine-tunes the cellular clock involved in aging.
Aging and cancer: An enzyme protects chromosomes from oxidative damage
EPFL scientists have identified a protein that caps chromosomes during cell division and protect them from oxidative damage and shortening, which are associated with aging and cancer.
Length of telomeres should tell whether vitamin D, omega-3 are good for the heart, longevity
The length of your telomeres appears to be a window into your heart health and longevity, and scientists are measuring them to see if vitamin D and omega-3 supplements really improve both.
DNA damage response links short telomeres, heart disorder in Duchenne muscular dystrophy
A new study shows that telomeres shorten without cell division in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Related Telomeres Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...