- Signal pathway in the hypothalamus controls ageing throughout the body
- Signalling can be altered to slow ageing process and increase longevity
- Hormone made in the hypothalamus also slows ageing so injecting it into mice increases their lifespan
- For generations, we have tried, and failed, to find the key to eternal youth.But scientists think they may now be one step closer to unlocking the secret.
New research has found that a single region of the brain may control the ageing process.
Researchers believe that the hypothalamus – the area of the brain which controls hunger, thirst, body temperature and fatigue – may be the ‘fountain of ageing’, controlling how the body declines over time.
They say they have discovered a specific age-related signalling pathway which opens up new strategies for combating diseases of old age and extending lifespan.
Senior author Professor Dongsheng Cai, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the United States, said: ‘Scientists have long wondered whether ageing occurs independently in the body’s various tissues or if it could be actively regulated by an organ in the body.
‘It’s clear from our study that many aspects of ageing are controlled by the hypothalamus.
‘What’s exciting is that it’s possible – at least in mice – to alter signalling within the hypothalamus to slow down the ageing process and increase longevity.’
The hypothalamus, located deep within the brain, is known to play fundamental roles in growth, development, reproduction and metabolism.
Professor Cai suspected that the hypothalamus might also play a key role in ageing through the influence it exerts throughout the body.
He said: ‘As people age you can detect inflammatory changes in various tissues.
‘Inflammation is also involved in various age-related diseases, such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease and many types of cancer.’
Researchers found that blocking a pathway in the hypothalamus (shown in red) increased longevity in mice by about 20 per cent