Discovery from MCDB’s Rothman Lab on how our bodies regulate age-related decline was included in the 2023 List of "12 Ingenious Discoveries" from the University of California

UC Santa Barbara biologists cracked the cellular code regulating age-related disease

December 18, 2023
Picture of mitochondria

From the University of California's 12 ingenious discoveries from a year of UC research list:

By Julia Busiek


All the energy for everything you do comes from your mitochondria, the pill-shaped organelles inside nearly every cell in your body. The perpetual process of generating energy also produces molecules that damage parts of our cells, including DNA within the mitochondria themselves. As we age, this damaged mitochondrial DNA contributes to heart failure, loss of muscle function and dementia.

Biologists at UC Santa Barbara discovered a mechanism that the body uses get rid of damaged mitochondrial DNA and slow the aging process. They found that enzymes that act as a self-destruct switch for cells that are potentially harmful, like cells turning cancerous, also eliminate defective mitochondrial DNA. When researchers suppressed these enzymes, defective mitochondria piled up, accelerating the aging process. With a change to a single gene, researchers were able to slow age-related decline in the cells of the worms they studied.

These discoveries, funded in part by the National Institute on Aging, point to possible treatments that could add years of vibrant, disease-free life to humans’ “healthspan.”


To see the full list, read here.