CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-5661; fax (319) 335-9917
UI researchers identify possible reason for rare, accelerated
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa study looking
at a rare, accelerated aging condition could improve understanding of normal
aging and lead to treatments for various problems, including the accelerated
aging condition itself, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
UI researchers have found that people with progeria
have extremely low levels of antioxidant enzymes. Progeria is a disease that
mimics normal aging but occurs at a very fast pace. The antioxidant enzymes,
deficient in individuals with progeria, protect most people against cell-damaging
free radicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS).
"Understanding the molecular mechanism underlying progeria
may help to further explain the molecular basis of normal aging, " said Larry
Oberley, Ph.D., UI professor of radiology and the study's lead investigator.
Progeria cells are ideal for the study of aging because
they mimic the aging process without the time it would take in normal models.
Investigating the process would require three years in mice and 40 years in
monkeys, Oberley said. The progeria research, by contrast, took three months.
In their investigation, the UI researchers found that
progeria cells demonstrate only 50 percent of normal catalase activity and 30
percent of normal glutathione peroxidase activity. Catalase and glutathione
peroxidase are two of the four primary antioxidant enzymes. The lack of these
two enzymes makes it impossible for the cells to effectively remove toxic peroxides
produced during normal cell metabolism.
Reintroducing antioxidant enzymes into the cells may
halt or reverse the problem. To accomplish this, the UI investigators plan to
use adenovirus gene transfers. This approach involves attaching the enzymes
to a disabled common cold virus and then giving it to patients. The virus, acting
as a transporter, takes the enzymes to the necessary cells.
Manipulating antioxidant enzymes
might be beneficial for treating a number of diseases. As Oberley explained,
"Everything in a cell is about balance." In some cases, such as progeria, adding
antioxidant enzymes restores the balance, allowing
the cell to live. In other cases, such as cancer, adding the enzymes disrupts
the balance, causing the cells to die.
"You use the same reagents, just in different ways,"
Oberley said. "We're just on the edge of radical medical advancement. We're
talking about possible treatments for cancer, aging, heart attacks most
of the diseases of mankind."
UI researchers plan to use their gene transfer strategy
to try to treat some of these other conditions.
The UI progeria findings are included in a recent issue
of Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. The National Institutes
of Health provided funding for the research.