C. elgans, a tiny, short-lived roundworm used in aging research and other studies
University of Washington School of Medicine researchers' experiment on C.elegans demonstrated that harnessing light energy to rejuvenate mitochondrial membranes slowed aging.
As part of their research on aging, the team is interested in learning how to modulate mitochondrial activity directly. The energy centers inside living cells are called mitochondria. Among their numerous essential roles, they are vital for cellular respiration and energy production, as per the release.
Roundworms, which have an average lifespan of just two to three weeks, are frequently used in aging studies. This means that it is usually possible to receive study results swiftly. Researchers sought to know more about how roundworm aging is affected by mitochondrial dysfunction and whether part of this decline may be stopped or reversed.
Brandon J. Berry, the study's lead author, is a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Matt Kaeberlein's laboratory at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Shahaf Peleg, a member of the Group on Epigenetics, Metabolism, and Longevity at the Institute for Farm Animal Biology in Dummerstorf, Germany, and Andrew P. Wojtovich, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, are the seniors, and corresponding authors of the study.
An adult hermaphrodite C. elegans worm.Wikimedia Commons
Why mitochondria’s membrane?
A double membrane surrounds each mitochondrion. The interior layer has accordion-style pleats. Age-related declines in the voltage potential (the ability to transfer charged particles across the inner membrane) have been noted in earlier modeling studies by others.
Numerous essential functions of these cellular organelles, such as the synthesis of energy molecules, immunological signaling, and genetic regulation, are driven by the mitochondrial membrane potential.
“Decreased mitochondrial membrane potential is an attractive explanation for the complex dysfunctions of aging. However, it is unclear if lessening of the mitochondria voltage potential is a cause or a consequence of cellular aging,” said researchers in their study, which was published in Nature Aging on December 30.
To achieve the elusive goal of verifying causality, the researchers used optogenetics, a technology that uses light to precisely manipulate a biological process inside a cell. Using a light-activated proton pump, they were able to specifically increase the mitochondrial membrane potential in the cells of adult roundworms. This instrument was dubbed "mitochondria-ON."