Secret of long life may be in the brain


Scientists said Wednesday they had found a brain region that controls physical aging, and could target it to manipulate the life span of lab mice.

The research, published in the journal Nature, implicates the hypothalamus — a brain region that regulates growth, reproduction and metabolism, in the gradual bodily deterioration we call aging.

Though the brain has long been suspected of orchestrating the process, this is the first evidence to that effect.

The team said they could speed up or slow down aging in mice by activating or inhibiting the brain signaling molecule NF-kB in the hypothalamus, which in turn affects levels of a hormone called GnRH, which plays a role in the generation of neurons, the data-processing cells of the brain.

By stimulating NF-kB, they caused a decline in GnRH, which led to impaired neurogenesis and aging symptoms such as muscle weakening, skin atrophy, bone loss and memory impairment.

NF-kB is generally responsible for regulating the body’s response to inflammation, the New York-based team said.