Sirtuin research underscores new approach to aging

There's a growing belief in scientific circles that the old theory that aging is the natural result of gradually tiring cells isn't accurate. Instead, many researchers are advocating a new approach, one which sees aging as a deliberate molecular process that can be manipulated following new research into the molecular machinery at work.

Derailing or slowing this molecular betrayal, although still far in the future, may enable us to one day tack years onto our lives--or at least delay the appearance of that next wrinkle.

"There is a genetic process that has to be on, and enforced, in order for aging to happen," said Howard Chang, MD, PhD, associate professor of dermatology at the school and a member of Stanford's Cancer Center. "It's possible that those rare individuals who live beyond 100 years have a less-efficient version of this master pathway, just as children with progeria--a genetic aging disease--may have components of this pathway that are more active."

To gain a better understanding of the process, researchers focused their investigation on two seemingly separate pathways linked to aging. One involved a molecule known as SIRT6--a member of the sirtuin family of proteins that modulate life span in organisms such as yeast and worms.

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