Scientists have discovered why exercises help prolong life.
Exercises and a high level of activity can prolong human life because they upregulate NRF1 gene that protects the ends of DNA molecules from damage, according to an article published in “Science Advances” journal.
Telomeres are the end segments of chromosomes located in the nucleus of each cell of the human body. Telomeres protect the DNA from damage. During the cell division process, they become shorter when the length is insufficient for the new division, the cell dies.
Recently scientists have discovered that the telomere length and its condition can change not only with age but also because of various processes in the body, associated with depression and stress, for example. What is more, the stronger the symptoms of the mental disorder are and the longer they remain, the shorter are the telomeres.
Anabelle Decottingnies of the University of Leuven in Brussels (Belgium) and her colleagues found out unexpectedly how telomeres are associated with exercises and why doing sports can extend the life of a person.
They studied how the cell “reads” telomeres and produces special TERRA molecules which prevent the specific enzyme telomerase from “fixing” the end segments of chromosomes at the time when the cell does not divide, which usually leads to very unpleasant consequences.
Watching the cells in a test tube, scientists discovered unexpectedly that the rise and fall of the concentration of molecules TERRA depended on two genes and their associated proteins, NRF1 and PPAR-gamma. The first is responsible for the so-called “nuclear breath” of the cell and controls the metabolism of the whole organism, the conducting behavior of mitochondria, the cellular “power plants”, and adjusting the levels of antioxidants in the body. The second gene is responsible for storage of fat, appetite and several other aspects of metabolism.
Both of these DNA intensifies in our body during exercises, and intense physical activity gave scientists the idea to check how their activation affects the state of the telomere and the work of TERRA molecules in the human body. To do this, researchers invited a group of several volunteers who pedaled a stationary bike for 45 minutes and then gave samples of saliva and blood.
As shown by this experiment, doing sports really helped to increase the number of TERRA molecules in the nucleus of human body cells, thereby improving protection of telomeres from damage.
Such a mechanism of “triggering” the system of protection of telomeres, according to biologists can explain why an active lifestyle and exercises can extend the life of a person. In addition, this same system is “turned on” not only during intense exercises, but also by limiting the number of calories in the diet that may also explain why a low-calorie diet prolonged the lives of mice in several experiments conducted in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.