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A Genetic Change for Achieving a Long and Healthy Life
Researchers identified a single amino acid change in the tumor suppressor protein in PTEN that extends healthy periods while maintaining longevity Living a long, healthy life is everyone’s wish, but it is not an easy one to achieve. Many aging studies are developing strategies to increase health spans, the period of life spent with good health, without chronic diseases and disabilities. Researchers at KAIST presented new insights for improving the health span by just regulating the activity of a protein. A research group under Professor Seung-Jae V. Lee from the Department of Biological Sciences identified a single amino acid change in the tumor suppressor protein phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) that dramatically extends healthy periods while maintaining longevity. This study highlights the importance of the well-conserved tumor suppressor protein PTEN in health span regulation, which can be targeted to develop therapies for promoting healthy longevity in humans. The research was published in Nature Communications on September 24, 2021. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) signaling (IIS) is one of the evolutionarily conserved aging-modulatory pathways present in life forms ranging from tiny roundworms to humans. The proper reduction of IIS leads to longevity in animals but often causes defects in multiple health parameters including impaired motility, reproduction, and growth. The research team found that a specific amino acid change in the PTEN protein improves health status while retaining the longevity conferred by reduced IIS. They used the roundworm C. elegans, an excellent model animal that has been widely used for aging research, mainly because of its very short normal lifespan of about two to three weeks. The PTEN protein is a phosphatase that removes phosphate from lipids as well as proteins. Interestingly, the newly identified amino acid change delicately recalibrated the IIS by partially maintaining protein phosphatase activity while reducing lipid phosphatase activity. As a result, the amino acid change in the PTEN protein maintained the activity of the longevity-promoting transcription factor Forkhead Box O (FOXO) protein while restricting the detrimental upregulation of another transcription factor, NRF2, leading to long and healthy life in animals with reduced IIS. Professor Lee said, “Our study raises the exciting possibility of simultaneously promoting longevity and health in humans by slightly tweaking the activity of one protein, PTEN.” This work was supported by the MInistry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation of Korea. -Publication:Hae-Eun H. Park, Wooseon Hwang, Seokjin Ham, Eunah Kim, Ozlem Altintas, Sangsoon Park, Heehwa G. Son, Yujin Lee, Dongyeop Lee, Won Do Heo, and Seung-Jae V. Lee. 2021. “A PTEN variant uncouples longevity from impaired fitness in Caenorhabditis elegans with reduced insulin/IGF-1 signaling,” Nature Communications, 12(1), 5631. (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-25920-w) -ProfileProfessor Seung-Jae V. LeeMolecular Genetics of Aging LaboratoryDepartment of Biological Sciences KAIST
Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho Recognzied by "Scientist of the Month" Award
Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho of KAIST’s Department of Bio and Brain Engineering received the “Scientist of the Month” award in February 2015 from the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea. The award was in recognition of Professor Cho’s contribution to the advanced technique of controlling the death of cancer cells based on systems biology, a convergence research in information technology (IT) and biotechnology. Professor Cho has published around 140 articles in international journals, including 34 papers in renowned science journals such as Nature, Science, and Cell in the past three years. His work also includes systems biology textbooks and many entries in international academic encyclopaedia. His field, systems biology, is a new biological research paradigm that identifies and controls the fundamental principles of organisms on a systems level. A well-known tumour suppressor protein, p53, is known to suppress abnormal cell growth and promote apoptosis of can cells, and thus was a focus of research by many scientists, but its effect has been insignificant and brought many side effects. This was due to the complex function of p53 that controls various positive and negative feedbacks. Therefore, there was a limit to understanding the protein with the existing biological approach. However, Professor Cho found the kinetic change and function of p53 via a systems biology approach. By applying IT technology to complex biological networks, he also identified the response to stress and the survival and death signal transduction pathways of cardiomyocytes and developed new control methods for cancer cells. Professor Cho said, “This award served as a momentum to turn over a new leaf.” He added, “I hope convergence research such as my field will bring more innovative ideas on the boundaries of academia.”
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