Advancements in healthcare, access to more nutritious diets and better living conditions have added up to ensuring longer lifespans for most people around the world.
But as people continue to live longer, the topic of overall health and quality of life in old age is gaining importance. A significant amount of research is now being directed to understanding aging mechanisms.
Previous research has shown that a main process in aging is the capacity of the cells to keep our genes and DNA, more or less intact. Moreover, changes in the cells' power stations, the mitochondria, also affect aging processes.
Now an international team of researchers from the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen and the National Institute of Health in the United States has shown that the coenzyme NAD+ plays a crucial role in the aging process. They found that NAD+ bridges the gap between two main aging theories — repairs to the DNA and poor functioning mitochondria.
Researchers said their new study showed an age-dependent decrease in the level of NAD+, and this decrease was far greater for organisms with early aging and a lack of DNA repairs. They were surprised to see that adding NAD+ postponed both the aging processes of the cells and extended life in worms and in a mouse model.
Even though the researchers have only examined the effect of the substance on model organisms and not administered the substance to patients, they expect to see the same effect in humans, as the cell repair mechanisms are universal for the cells of all living organisms.
Understanding the universal mechanisms at cell level is key to understanding human aging and why we become more susceptible to illness as we grow older. Hopefully, this new knowledge will be able to help postpone physical aging processes and prevent illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease