If you want to help your brain slow down aging and extend your life, follow dietary patterns such as intermittent fasting or limit your calorie intake, suggests a study. A team of scientists at the Buck Institute in California for ‘Aging Research’ has found a role for a gene called OXR1 that is essential for the lifespan extension seen with dietary restriction and is essential for healthy brain aging. The OXR1 gene is an important brain resilience component that protects against aging and neurological diseases, researchers said in a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
“When people restrict their intake, they usually think about how it affects their digestive system or fat formation, but not necessarily about how it affects the brain,” said Kenneth Wilson, a postdoctoral student at the institute. “As it turns on, it’s a gene that’s important in the brain.”
The team additionally demonstrated a detailed cellular mechanism for how dietary restriction can delay aging and slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Research in fruit fly and human cells also identifies potential therapeutic targets for slowing aging and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. “We found a neuron-specific response that mediates the neuroprotection of dietary restriction,” said Buck Institute Professor Pankaj Kapahi. “Strategies such as intermittent fasting or caloric restriction, which restrict nutrients, may increase the levels of these genes to mediate protective effects.”
The team started by scanning about 200 strains of flies with different genetic backgrounds. Flies were reared on two different diets, either a normal diet or dietary restriction, which was only 10 percent of normal nutrition. They found that loss of OXR1 in humans resulted in severe neurological defects and premature death. In mice, overexpressing OXR1 improves survival in an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) model.
Further, a series of in-depth experiments found that OXR1 affects a complex called retromer, a set of proteins required for recycling cellular proteins and lipids. Retrograde dysfunction has been linked to age-related neurodegenerative diseases that are protected by dietary restrictions, particularly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The team found that the OXR1 retromer preserves function and is essential for neuronal function, healthy brain aging and lifespan seen with dietary restriction. “Diet is affecting this gene. By eating less, you’re improving this process of properly sorting proteins into your cells, because your cells are increasing the expression of OXR1,” Wilson said.