Researchers speed up, slow down aging in mice

Scientists at Xiamen University have found that a hypothalamic protein called menin may play a key role in aging.

The hypothalamis is a region deep in the brain, coordinating the autonomic nervous system and pituitary activity, controlling body temperature, thirst, hunger and other systems that maintain stability. According to a very helpful article here, “the hypothalamus has been identified as a key mediator of physiological aging, through an increase in the process of neuroinflammatory signalling over time.” Can that process be influenced?

Researchers worked with menin, a hypothalamic protein. They found that “hypothalamic menin signalling” diminished in aging mice, correlating with cognition-related deficits. But when they restored menin expression in the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH), the lifespan of aged mice was extended, along with improved learning and memory, and reduced biomarkers of aging. “Conversely, inhibiting the menin in the VMH of middle-aged mice induced premature aging and speeded up cognitive decline.”

To get this result, researchers delivered the gene for menin into the hypothalamus of elderly (20-month-old) mice. “Thirty days later, they found that treated animals had improved skin thickness and bone mass, along with better learning, cognition and balance.” More research is needed, of course, but the implications could be enormous.

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