A new study titled “Circulating Concentrations of Growth Differentiation Factor 11 are heritable and correlate with life span,” and published in the Journals of Gerontology reveals that genetics regulates aging and disease, and a hormone associated with aging could be controlled by genetics.
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The hormone is known as the growth differentiation factor 11 or GDF11, and the research was carried out by scientists from the University of Georgia.
When GDF11 was restored in old lab mice (since they decrease over time), their brain and muscle and cardiovascular aging were rejuvenated, a feat that has come to be hailed as one of the top breakthroughs of 2014 in science.
Scientists in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences found that genetics determine the level of GDF11 in the body, but researchers do not really know why it keeps decreasing as an individual ages.
“Finding that GDF11 levels are under genetic control is of significant interest. Since it is under genetic control, we can find the genes responsible for GDF11 levels and its changes with age,” said the study’s senior author Rob Pazdro, an assistant professor in the college’s department of foods and nutrition.
Pazdro’s team applied gene mapping to be able to identify seven genes that may be the right candidate to influence the depletion of the hormone GDF11 from mid-age to old age, showing that the GDF11 can be passed from one individual to another through blood inheritance.
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“Essentially, we found a missing piece of the aging/genetics puzzle,” Pazdro said. “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.”