Selfish genetic elements amplify inflammation and age-related diseases

Medical Xpress | March 11, 2019

Aging affects every living organism, but the molecular processes that contribute to aging remain a subject of debate. While many things contribute to the aging process, one common theme in animal aging is inflammation—and this may be amplified by a class of selfish genetic elements. The human genome is littered with selfish genetic elements—repetitive elements that do not seem to benefit their hosts, but instead seek only to propagate themselves by inserting new copies into their host genomes. A class of selfish genetic elements called LINE1 retrotransposons are the most prevalent retrotransposon selfish genetic elements found in humans; approximately 20 percent of both human and mice genomes are composed of LINE1s. Researchers have long suspected that LINE1s contribute to cancer and genomic instability. However, the harm inflicted by these genomic parasites reaches much further than researchers had at first thought. In a paper in the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers from the University of Rochester, including Vera Gorbunova, the Doris Johns Cherry professor of biology, and Andrei Seluanov, professor of biology, show that LINE1 retrotransposons become more active with age and may cause age-related diseases by triggering inflammation. By understanding the impacts of retrotransposons, researchers can better recognize the processes by which cells age and how to combat the deleterious effects of aging.

Spotlight

Whether airborne or present in food and water supplies, pathogens have the potential to affect agriculture and human health profoundly. Livestock infectious diseases can have an influence on animal welfare and global food production. Crop pathogens are also a serious problem, especially in agriculture-based economies. Rice infection with Magnaporthe oryzae can have devastating effects on yearly yields. Furthermore, as recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks have reminded us, pathogens pose a significant threat to public health and a challenge for modern medicine. Widespread and increasing drug resistance of infectious organisms compounds this threat.

Spotlight

Whether airborne or present in food and water supplies, pathogens have the potential to affect agriculture and human health profoundly. Livestock infectious diseases can have an influence on animal welfare and global food production. Crop pathogens are also a serious problem, especially in agriculture-based economies. Rice infection with Magnaporthe oryzae can have devastating effects on yearly yields. Furthermore, as recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks have reminded us, pathogens pose a significant threat to public health and a challenge for modern medicine. Widespread and increasing drug resistance of infectious organisms compounds this threat.

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