Aging Linked to Genetics: Essential Hormone is Instrumental in the Aging Process

First Posted: Feb 19, 2016 03:22 PM EST

Scientists may have finally made a link between genetics and aging. Researchers have shown that a hormone instrumental in the aging process is under genetic control.

Previous studies have found that blood levels of this hormone, known as growth differentiation factor 11, decrease over time. Restoration of GDF11, though, reverses cardiovascular aging in old mice and actually leads to muscle and brain rejuvenation.

Now, researchers have found that levels of this hormone are determine by genetics, which represents another potential mechanism by which aging is encoded in the genome.

"Finding that GDF11 levels are under genetic control is of significant interest," said Rob Pazdro, the senior author of the new study, in a news release. "Since it is under genetic control, we can find the genes responsible for GDF11 levels and its changes with age."

The researchers also examined the relationship between GDF11 levels and markers of aging such as lifespan in 22 genetically diverse inbred mice strains. They found that the strains with the highest GDF11 levels tended to live the longest. Not only that, but GDF11 levels were highly heritable.

"Essentially, we found a missing piece of the aging/genetics puzzle," said Pazdro. "Very generally, we've made an important step toward learning about aging and why we age and what are the pathways that drive it. It's the first step down a long road, but it's an important step."

The findings are published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

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