Page URL:

Ageing process determined by mum's DNA

27 August 2013
Appeared in BioNews 719

Genetic mutations passed on from mothers may speed up the ageing process and shorten life expectancy, according to a study on mice.

Damage to the DNA in mitochondria – the chemical power sources of a cell – builds up over time and influences ageing. The study, published in Nature, shows that mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) passed from mothers to children can lead to premature ageing.

Mice that did not inherit mutated mtDNA aged at a slower rate. Offspring inheriting mutations lived for 42.7 weeks on average, while the offspring of unaffected mothers lived an average of 7.5 weeks longer.

'In essence we studied ageing and ageing is caused by the multiple types of accumulated damage', senior author Professor Nils-Göran Larsson of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany told the Independent.

'When we age, we accumulate damage to the mitochondrial DNA and we've shown that some of this damage is actually inherited from the mother', said Professor Larsson.

The researchers artificially introduced mtDNA mutations into families of mice. Offspring would inherit these mutations from their mother. Some families of mice in the experiment were also bred with a gene causing high levels of mtDNA mutations over the course of life. Other mouse families lacked this high rate of so-called somatic mtDNA mutations.

Mice with both the inherited and somatic mtDNA mutations not only aged prematurely and lived shorter lives but also grew enlarged hearts and deformed brains.

Mitochondria are vital for providing energy to cells. Mitochondrial DNA mutates faster than the DNA in the nucleus of a cell. Over time, mtDNA is liable to become damaged, which may cause the mitochondria to malfunction, contributing to the ageing process.

The researchers said it remains unclear whether lifestyle choices such as diet or medication can lessen the damage to mtDNA.

'There are various dietary manipulations and drugs that can up-regulate mitochondrial function or reduce mitochondrial toxicity. An example would be antioxidants', said co-author Dr Barry Hoffer from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, USA.

'This mouse model would be a platform to test these drugs or diets'.

Aging Process: Study Finds Mother's Genes Play A Role
Huffington Post |  21 August 2013
Blame your mum if the years have not been kind: study says mothers pass on 'ageing gene'
The Independent |  21 August 2013
Germline mitochondrial DNA mutations aggravate ageing and can impair brain development
Nature |  21 August 2013
Study finds mother's genes can impact aging process
EurekAlert (press release) |  21 August 2013
22 June 2020 - by Emma Bunting 
Determining when ageing starts, our predicted remaining lifespan, and how long women remain fertile can be predicted from the rate we accumulate mutations as young adults, scientists claim...
6 May 2014 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Research in the Gambia has found that different diets, coinciding with rainy and dry seasons, influence a baby's gene expression....
17 February 2014 - by Chris Baldacci 
A technique that accurately predicts the lifespan of nematode worms has been developed by scientists monitoring mitochondrial activity...
18 November 2013 - by María Victoria Rivas Llanos 
Severe depression speeds up the ageing process of our cells, researchers have found...
11 November 2013 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
A gene normally only expressed in embryos has been shown to improve tissue repair in adult mice...
23 April 2012 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
Chemical alterations in a group of genes affect how we age, scientists have discovered. These changes switch genes on or off in response to diet or environmental factors throughout our lives. Researchers found that four genes that are epigentically switched off in later life may have a bearing on how well we age...
3 October 2011 - by Dr Louisa Petchey 
A gene associated with increased lifespan in a number of organisms is now thought to have no effect on longevity after a second look revealed significant flaws in the original studies on which the assumptions were based. The findings will disappoint the manufacturers of many anti-ageing creams that claim to work by activating the gene, but are unlikely to put a stop to research...
1 August 2011 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
The rate at which we age depends on socio-economic status and can be revealed by a DNA test, which will improve assessment of public health measures, say Glaswegian scientists....
18 April 2011 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
A research team from King's College London led by Dr Guangju Zhai has completed a meta-analysis of seven genetic studies looking at the role of the hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), and how it may affect the ageing process in humans...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.