A colon growth hormone could pave way for treating aging-related disorders

Researchers say they have found a growth hormone in the colon that helps damage DNA, which aides in the aging process. The finding could lead to new therapeutic approaches to aging-associated disorders like cancer. 

Whereas circulating pituitary growth hormones decline with age, non-pituitary growth hormones, or npGH, increase with age. That means the colon tissue growth hormone helps initiate the first stages of tumor development and influence the aging process, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center researchers said in research published in the journal Cell Reports. 

At the core of the issue is npGH blocking a certain protein from protecting DNA from damage. The protein, p53, is a tumor suppressor that helps repair DNA, but it can also awaken growth hormones. 

Investigators at the Los Angeles institution studied DNA repair in the colon by using 3D cultures from stem cells that mimic human colon tissue. They found that npGH blocked p53 from performing its DNA repair duties, which led to further DNA damage. 

RELATED: Elevian snags $40M for stroke recovery and age-related diseases

Damaged DNA is a central part of the aging process. Thus, the new findings point to npGH as a potential target for available medicines.

By interfering with npGH's signaling, available drugs could be used to block the growth hormone receptor as an anti-aging therapy and potentially also help alleviate effects from DNA-damaging therapies for patients with cancer, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the researchers said. 

"The findings were quite striking," said Vera Chesnokova, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine and the lead author, in a statement

Anti-aging continues to be a hot area of drug development and investment activities. Biotech Elevian picked up $40 million in series A funds in September to bankroll phase 1 trials of its lead program in stroke recovery. 

Elsewhere in the anti-aging arena, Unity Biotechnology said its small-molecule inhibitor UBX1325 was well tolerated in patients with advanced vascular eye disease. The news was a boon for the company after having dropped its lead program in knee pain a year earlier.