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Effect of SIRT1 genes on neurodegenerative diseases and cancer

Dr. Leonard Guarente
Dr. Leonard Guarente

Today, I attended a lecture at the National Institutes of Health by Dr. Leonard Guarente of MIT. Dr. Guarente has dedicated his career to the study of the molecular mechanisms that affect life span and the development of the diseases associated with aging. One of his particular interests is the study of mammalian SIRT genes that are involved in changes in stress resistance and metabolism known to be associated with Calorie Restriction (CR). The CR diet not only extends life span in rodents, but also protects against many diseases of aging, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

Dr. Guarente described recent findings in his laboratory regarding SIRT1 function in specific mammalian tissues and in specific disease models. Dr. Guarente's lab has recently shown that genetic interventions that enhance the activity of the mammalian sirtuin SIRT1 can mitigate major diseases of aging in mice, such as neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. Increased expression of the SIRT1 gene in experimental animals was able to decrease cancer, decrease the formation of beta amyloid plaque in the brain, and decrease osteoporosis, but overexpression of the gene was fatal. It seems that there is an optimum amount of gene expression which promotes health, and that too much is actually worse.

Dr. Guarente posed with me for this photograph. When I told him that I was a member of the Calorie Restriction Society, he said: "You don't look too thin." I answered that I was not an extreme dieter, and that I only restricted about 10 percent.
Antonio Zamora and Dr. Leonard Guarente

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