Eric Kelley, PhDA study from researchers at West Virginia University and the University of Minnesota could change the way we look at aging in humans. Through a new discovery of the main driver of aging in cells, this research shows that it may be possible to slow the aging process.

As mammals age, their bodies produce more chemical oxidants, which can cause cellular dysfunction as well as diminish the body’s capacity to produce antioxidants. As antioxidant levels decrease, aging accelerates. This research draws a direct connection between oxidants and aging, highlighting that through antioxidant therapy, cellular aging can be combated.

WVU’s Eric E. Kelley, Ph.D., and the University of Minnesota’s Laura Niedernhofer, Ph.D., published their findings in Redox Biology, an official journal of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine.

“Our data provides evidence that reduction in oxidant levels slows aging,” Kelley, associate professor of physiology and pharmacology and vice president of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine, said. “It is exciting that we can now show that oxidative damage is a primary driver of aging.”

This research provides evidence that spontaneous nuclear DNA damage induces reactive oxygen species (ROS) overproduction. While supplementation with numerous antioxidants as well as increasing enzymatic antioxidants by genetic manipulation has produced countervailing results over the years, these new data provide evidence that reduction in oxidant levels slows aging. 

Future studies will focus on directly connecting mitochondria-derived oxidants to DNA damage in order to identify potential targets for pharmacologic intervention: all geared toward clinical application.

In the 1950’s, Denham Harmon published a groundbreaking theory correlating antioxidants and aging. Since then, there have been few findings that validate directly this theory. This new study provides that validation which has been missing.

For more information on WVU’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, visit medicine.hsc.wvu.edu/physio.