If you live a long and healthy life, you might want to thank your mother. New research shows longevity and the rate that we age is determined not only by the accumulation of cell damage during our lifetimes that impairs the function of bodily organs, but also by the genetic material we acquire from our mothers.
In a new study published in the journal Nature, researchers at Karolinska Institutet and the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging determined the quality of maternal mitochondrial DNA — the molecular power plant of human cells — is a key to the aging process and how long we live.
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"The mitochondrion contains its own DNA, which changes more than the DNA in the nucleus, and this has a significant impact on the aging process," explained lead researcher Nils-Göran Larsson. "Many mutations in the mitochondria gradually disable the cell's energy production.
"Surprisingly, we also show that our mother's mitochondrial DNA seems to influence our own aging. If we inherit mDNA with mutations from our mother, we age more quickly."
Larsson explained that normal and damaged DNA is passed down from generation to generation. Inherited DNA that is defective can lead to developmental effects and help to cause deformities of the brain, noted co-researcher Lars Olson.
Although the new research is based on experiments involving mice, the scientists said it has significant implications for humans. The researchers now plan to investigate whether reducing the number of mutations — through lifestyle and environmental changes — can extend their lifespan.
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