SAN DIEGO, Ca. – Researchers from the University of California San Diego conducted a study to reprogram the cellular aging process. The study concluded that they were able to increase the lifespan of yeast cells by 82% — and claimed that the same could be done on a cellular level in humans.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science on Thursday.

Yeast cells are single-celled microorganisms that undergo an aging process similar to that of human cells — and while the latter are more complex, the experts are optimistic that the science can be relayed.

Yeast cells have a transcriptional toggle switch that allows them to die in one of two ways: nucleolar decline (splintering of the cell’s protein-making properties) or mitochondrial decay (waning of the cell’s energy production).

Those pathways naturally stop one another; as one takes place, the other is eliminated.

However, the researchers were able to rewire the transcriptional switch into a negative-feedback loop, which caused the yeast cells to fluctuate between the two aging states — increasing their life span by 82%.

Senior author Nan Hao, Ph.D., of the School of Biological Sciences’ Department of Molecular Biology, as well as co-director of UC San Diego’s Synthetic Biology Institute, explained the importance of the results, noting that it was “the first time computationally guided synthetic biology and engineering principles were used to rationally redesign gene circuits and reprogram the aging process to effectively promote longevity.”

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