Certain yeast cells are immune to aging

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Max Planck researchers unravel the secret of the eternal youth of yeast cells

Usually, living things change and age over time. Iva Tolic-Nørrelykke from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics has discovered an exception and could have come a little closer to the secret of eternal youth. The researcher found that certain yeast cells do not age under optimal environmental conditions. When the cells reproduce, they rejuvenate.

Under favorable conditions, yeast cells become immune to aging. The desire for eternal youth and vitality is probably as old as mankind. A researcher from the Dresden Max Planck Institute has now uncovered the secret of age. She was able to understand the aging process using yeast cells.

As the Max Planck Institute informs, microorganisms do not normally divide into exactly the same parts - even with symmetrical cell division. Damaged components primarily attach to the cell membrane and the cell nucleus of only one of the two halves, so that this cell half receives older and defective material. In contrast, the other half of the cell is supplied with fresh, functional components. In this way, offspring are created that are younger than the parents. This applies to human cells as well as to yeast cells.

Dr. Iva Tolic-Nørrelykke and her team used the yeast "Schizosaccharomyces pombe" to study the cell division process. "We have been researching this African split yeast since 2006, the cells of which had to be divided again and again in order to understand the process," the bio-physicist told the "Bild" newspaper. The researchers found that under suitable conditions these yeast cells do not age during the division process. Rather, they appeared to be immune to aging. Because the two daughter cells, which were created during reproduction, contained cell components in equal parts. Accordingly, there was no cell half with old, damaged and one with functional material. The cells of "Schizosaccharomyces pombe" evenly divided the damaged material among themselves, so that each daughter cell inherited only half of the damage. As a result, both cell halves were younger than before. "The yeast rejuvenates with each cell division," said Tolic-Nørrelykke.

Human stem, germ and cancer cells are also immune to aging. The researchers also found that the "just" distribution of the damaged components was only possible under favorable conditions. If the yeast cells were exposed to stress, for example due to heat or toxic chemicals, the cells divided like in other cells. A "young" and an "old" half of the cell emerged.

Since the younger cells of the yeast "Schizosaccharomyces pombe" survive so long that they can reproduce even under unfavorable circumstances, the researchers want to use the results for studies on human cells that also do not age. These include, for example, human stem, germ and cancer cells. The researchers published their results in the "Current Biology" magazine. (ag)

Image: Gänseblümchen / pixelio.de

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