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Scientists discover RNA molecules that don’t age

Scientists discover RNA molecules that don’t age
Researchers have unveiled a groundbreaking discovery regarding certain RNA molecules in brain nerve cells. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


Neuroscientists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), in collaboration with researchers from Germany, Austria, and the USA, have unveiled a groundbreaking discovery regarding certain RNA molecules in brain nerve cells.


Published in the prestigious journal Science, their findings shed light on the remarkable longevity of these RNA molecules, potentially unlocking insights into the aging process of the brain and associated neurodegenerative diseases.


 
 

RNA molecules and aging


While most cells in the human body undergo regular renewal, crucial organs like the heart, pancreas, and brain contain cells that persist throughout life without replenishment.


The life span of nuclear RNAs, which are critical for proper chromatin architecture and transcription regulation, has not been determined in adult tissues.
The life span of nuclear RNAs, which are critical for proper chromatin architecture and transcription regulation, has not been determined in adult tissues. (CREDIT: journal Science)


This endurance is vital for sustained functionality, yet aging neurons pose a significant risk factor for neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, as noted by Prof. Dr. Tomohisa Toda, a leading expert in Neural Epigenomics at FAU and the Max Planck Center for Physics and Medicine in Erlangen.


 
 

Collaborating with neuroscientists from Dresden, La Jolla (USA), and Klosterneuburg (Austria), Prof. Toda's team has identified a pivotal aspect of brain aging: certain RNA molecules, crucial for genetic material protection, endure as long as the neurons themselves.


This revelation challenges conventional wisdom, as RNA molecules typically undergo rapid turnover, unlike DNA, which remains stable.


 

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To ascertain the lifespan of these RNA molecules, the research group collaborated with Prof. Dr. Martin Hetzer's team, a renowned cell biologist from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA).


Employing fluorescent markers, they tracked the lifespan of RNA molecules in mouse brain cells, even observing their presence in aged animals and adult neural stem cells.


 
 

Moreover, the researchers found that these long-lived RNA molecules, dubbed LL-RNA, predominantly reside within the cell nuclei, intimately associated with chromatin – the complex of DNA and proteins forming chromosomes.


Distribution of EU+ cells in the mouse brain. Mice were injected with EU at P3-P5 and analyzed at P6 (1 week) or at an age of 1 or 2 years.
Distribution of EU+ cells in the mouse brain. Mice were injected with EU at P3-P5 and analyzed at P6 (1 week) or at an age of 1 or 2 years. (CREDIT: journal Science)


This localization suggests a critical role in chromatin regulation. Substantiating this hypothesis, the team conducted in-vitro experiments, demonstrating that reducing LL-RNA concentration severely compromised chromatin integrity.


 
 

Prof. Toda underscores the significance of LL-RNAs in genome stability and lifelong preservation of nerve cells, emphasizing the need for further investigations into their biological functions and aging-related mechanisms. This groundbreaking study marks a significant milestone in understanding brain aging and offers potential avenues for developing effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.






For more science and technology stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

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