Transplanting a Gene Common in Centenarians Could Rewind The Heart's Age by Years

We are all ultimately overtaken by age, yet for some people, the correct genes can make the journey into old age rather slow.

Italian researchers made a unique discovery regarding people who survive well into their 90s and beyond a few years ago: they frequently possess a variant of the gene BPIFB4 that guards against cardiovascular disease and maintains the heart in excellent condition for a longer period of time.

The scientists have now seen how the variation reverses signs of biological heart aging by the equivalent of more than 10 human years by implanting the mutant gene into older mice.

The identical treatment was demonstrated to stop cardiac function deterioration in middle-aged animals.

Numerous factors, including as how much we drink and whether or not we smoke, affect how rapidly the heart and its surrounding blood arteries normally deteriorate. According to the study's findings, protein-encoding gene mutations also play a significant role.

The BPIFB4 gene's longevity-associated variation (LAV), which the researchers examined, is already linked to human lifespan and is regularly discovered in people who live longer than average, including those who are in their late 90s and beyond. The discovery led the researchers to focus on the physiological ramifications of the variation.

In addition to the studies on mice, the scientists also introduced the gene to human heart cells in a lab to see the results. 24 elderly individuals with significant cardiac conditions, some of whom had already undergone heart transplants, had their cells removed.

The findings indicated that LAV-BPIFB4 is crucial for sustaining pericyte cells. These cells' functions include creating new blood arteries and maintaining them, which maintains the heart healthy for longer.

According to Monica Cattaneo, a cardiovascular researcher from the IRCCS Multimedica Group in Italy and the study's primary author, pericytes, which assist the growth of new blood vessels, were found to be less functional and older in the elderly individuals.

"By introducing the longevity gene/protein into the test tube, we witnessed a process of cardiac rejuvenation: the cardiac cells of old heart failure patients had reestablished normal function, demonstrating to be more effective in forming new blood vessels."

The BPIFB4 gene mutation is passed down naturally from centenarians to their offspring, but it may also be used as a treatment for persons with cardiac problems whose parents did not live to a ripe old age.

The BPIFB4 gene has previously been demonstrated to prevent diabetes, atherosclerosis, and other problems in mice, and future clinical studies may be utilized to determine whether similar preventative benefits occur in people.

The BPIFB4 protein itself, as opposed to the BPIFB4 gene that produces it, may one day be used as a therapeutic, according to the researchers. Both techniques are feasible, but administering proteins is simpler and safer.

According to Madeddu, "Our results show the healthy mutant gene can restore the deterioration of cardiac function in older persons." We are now interested in figuring out whether administering the protein instead of the gene can also be effective.

The research has been published in Cardiovascular Research.