MASSACHUSETTS – Scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the US, including the Turkish pathologist Ömer H. Yilmaz, have discovered that fasting for as little as one day slows down aging through improving the regeneration of intestinal stem cells, which naturally declines by age.
The results were announced by researchers in their published study in ‘Cell Stem Cell’ journal in which they said that the effect of this newly discovered metabolic switch could be mimicked with an anti-aging drug in the future, Infosurhoy reported on May 9.
As with stem cells in all parts of the body, intestinal stem cells are in charge of growing new cells in the organ. They maintain the lining of the intestine, which is shed and replaced every few days, fight off infection and repair damage to the tissue.
Usually, these stem cells get less and less effective at their job with age. To test it out, the researchers studied groups of mice, both young and aged, that fasted for a day.
Then, the team removed samples of intestinal stem cells from the animals and grew them in culture, where they would develop into organoids, or mini-intestines.
The biologists found that stem cells from mice that fasted grew more organoids, to the extent that their stem cells had twice the regeneration abilities of control groups of mice that ate normal amounts during the same period. The benefits of fasting applied to both young and old mice.
“It was very obvious that fasting had this really immense effect on the ability of intestinal crypts to form more organoids, which is stem-cell-driven,” says Maria Mihaylova, the lead author of the study.
“This was something that we saw in both the young mice and the aged mice, and we really wanted to understand the molecular mechanisms driving this,” she continued.
To peer closer at the biological reasons for the health benefits, the researchers then sequenced the messenger RNA from the fasting mice.
It turns out that fasting triggered a metabolic switch that lets the animals burn fatty acids instead of the usual carbohydrates.
Transcription factors known as PPARs were key, and the team found that switching off this metabolic pathway canceled out the benefits of fasting.
Having pinpointed the pathway responsible, the team was also able to switch it on, mimicking the positive effects. This could potentially lead to drugs and treatments that burn fat and improve longevity.
Several researches agree with the conclusion of the new MIT study that caloric restriction like the continual fasting in Ramadan or Mondays and Thursdays has a profound effect on health and longevity.
So far, 91 Nobel laureates, 25 Turing Award winners, and 6 Fields Medalists, 52 National Medal of Science recipients, 65 Marshall Scholars, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 38 MacArthur Fellows, 34 astronauts and 16 chief scientists of the US Air Force have been affiliated with MIT.
Due to their successful scientific applications, the aggregated annual revenues of companies founded by MIT alumni ($1.9 trillion) ranked as the world’s 10th-largest economy in 2014.