Biologists at the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics in the town of Pushchino outside Moscow appear to have found a way of slowing down ageing processes in the human body by administering melatonin, popularly known as a sleep hormone, portal Hi-news.ru reported, citing Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, an international scientific journal.
It is commonly known that it’s mitochondria that play a crucial role in ageing. These double membrane-bound organelles have their own DNA and are what could be referred to as “energy stations” for the human body, as they generate most of the cell’s supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), used as a source of chemical energy. When mitochondria begin malfunctioning, a range of pathologies arise that lead to ageing. By just recently it was indisputably assumed that the diseases develop as a result of irreversible mutation in mitochondria’s DNA. But the theory has apparently been just disproved.
Researchers at the Institute led by Oleg Krestin are reported to have found that the ageing process have nothing to do with the above mutation. It’s impairment in mitochondrial structure that is responsible, and the process can be slowed by using melatonin, they said. The hormone regulates sleep and wakefulness and also is a powerful line of defense against oxidative stress. The Russian team looked into one of the hormone’s least investigated properties, seeking to understand whether ageing might be linked with a gradual decrease in melatonin concentrations as a person turns each new decade, a phenomenon that causes somnolence in the elderly.
“With age, the “power stations” in every cell get increasingly “holey,” growing pores through which calcium ions abandon a mitochondrion following the failure of old mitochondria to withstand internal stress. That progressively leads to the obliteration of the mitochondrion and, worst of all, sets off the biological self-destruction program in the cell itself. In our experiments on mitochondria taken from rat liver, we proved that continuous administering of melatonin helps close the pores in mitochondria and prevents the “enzyme flight.” Even in old animals, melatonin improved the functions of mitochondria.” Mr. Krestin explained.
Experiments on rat and mouse cells are reported to have shown that adding melatonin does indeed protect mitochondria and keep within a number of important enzymes responsible for ATP molecule assembly, thus putting off the ageing and death of cells.