New molecule could prevent age-related diseases and increase life expectancy and well-being, study finds

While advances in the world of medicine and technology explain the global increase in life expectancy, improvements in the quality of life of older people lag far behind. Longevity without decline in health is one of the major challenges facing the world of medicine.

A new study led by Professors Einav Gross and Shmuel Ben-Sasson of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) Faculty of Medicine has identified a group of molecules that enable cells to repair damaged components, enabling these tissues to maintain their function. The effectiveness of the molecules has been demonstrated on a model organism. The research team examined the effect of various therapies on longevity and quality of life, and successfully proved that they can protect the body and human cells against damage. Their findings were published in Autophagy.

Currently, a major factor in tissue aging is the reduced efficiency of the cell’s quality control mechanism, which leads to the accumulation of defective mitochondria. As Gross explained, “The mitochondria, the ‘powerhouses’ of the cell, are responsible for producing energy. They can be compared to tiny electric batteries that help cells function properly. Although these “batteries” constantly wear out, our cells have a sophisticated mechanism that removes defective mitochondria and replaces them with new ones.” However, this mechanism declines with age, leading to cellular dysfunction and deterioration of the tissue activity.

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 may have far-reaching practical applications as their new technology, developed at Hebrew University, has helped create innovative compounds to treat currently incurable diseases. The study also showed that these molecules can be used preventively. “In the future, we hope to be able to significantly delay the development of many age-related diseases and improve people’s quality of life,” Ben-Sasson said. Moreover, these compounds are user-friendly and can be taken orally.

To advance their important research and translate it into medical treatment for a variety of patients, the research team, in collaboration with Yissum, the Hebrew University’s technology transfer company, created Vitalunga, a startup that is currently developing this medicine. “Ben-Sasson’s and Gross’ findings have significant value for the world’s aging population,” noted Itzik Goldwaser, CEO of Yissum. “As Vitalunga progresses towards preclinical studies, they are closer than ever to minimizing the unbearable burden that age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, place on individuals, their families and our health systems.

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Material provided by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.