While breakthroughs in the world of medicine and technology are driving increases in life expectancy around the world, improvements in the quality of life of the elderly population have lagged far behind. Longevity without health deterioration is one of the greatest challenges facing the medical world.
A new study led by Professors Einav Gross and Shmuel Ben-Sasson of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) School of Medicine has identified a group of molecules that allow cells to repair damaged components, making it possible for them to recover Tissues function properly. The effectiveness of the molecules was demonstrated on a model organism. The research team examined the effect of various therapies on longevity and quality of life and was able to successfully demonstrate that they can protect the cells of the organism and humans from damage. Their results were published in autophagy.
Currently, a major contributor to aging tissue is the reduced effectiveness of the cell’s quality control mechanism, leading to the accumulation of defective mitochondria. As Gross explained, “The mitochondria, the ‘powerhouses’ of the cell, are responsible for energy production. They can be likened to tiny electrical batteries that help cells function properly by removing defective mitochondria and replacing them with new ones.” However, this mechanism weakens with age, leading to cell dysfunction and tissue activity deterioration.
This degenerative process is at the heart of many age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure and sarcopenia, which are on the rise. Gross and Ben-Sasson’s study could have far-reaching practical applications as their new technology, developed at the Hebrew University, helped create innovative compounds to treat diseases that currently have no cure. The study also showed that these molecules can be used preventively. “We hope that in the future we will be able to significantly delay the development of many age-related diseases and improve people’s quality of life,” said Ben-Sasson. Also, these compounds are user-friendly and can be taken orally.
To advance their important research and translate it into medical treatments for a wide range of patients, the research team, together with Yissum, the Hebrew University’s technology transfer company, founded Vitalunga, a startup currently developing this drug. “The results of Ben-Sasson and Gross have significant value for the world’s aging population,” noted Itzik Goldwaser, CEO of Yissum. “As Vitalunga advances towards preclinical studies, we are closer than ever to minimizing the unbearable burden that age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s place on individuals, their families and our healthcare systems.”
Materials provided by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.