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New Science on DNA Repair in Super Centenarians
Super-centenarians are those select folks that live healthfully over the age of 110. Recently, researchers at the Nestle Research Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland, and at several universities in Italy and Sweden set out to compare the genes of these super centenarians with healthy seniors in their 60s and 70s to see if they could predict what might help someone live well into their 100s.
The study, published in the journal eLife, evaluated 81 semi- and super-centenarians (semi-centenarians are 105 years old) across Italy and compared their genes with 36 healthy adults that had an average age of 68. They sequenced the genes of all participants and then cross-checked their results with 333 centenarians and 358 60-year-olds from a previous study.
The researchers found that people who live longer may have more efficient DNA-repair capacity.
The study found genetic variations in two genes called COA1 and STK17A in the centenarians that were not commonly seen in the mainstream population.
The STK17A variation was seen most frequently and controls how well cells respond to DNA damage and mutations. In the mainstream population, damaged cells, called senescent cells, do not die and instead continue to secrete toxic oxidative compounds that cause accelerated degeneration. Ideally, when cell damage occurs, the cell undergoes apoptosis, which is a programmed cell death that manages lingering cell damage or oxidation from reactive oxygen species. Centenarians with the STK17A variation are able to maintain cellular and DNA repair even as they age.
The second most common genetic difference between centenarians and healthy adults was with COA1, which regulates the communication between the nucleus of the cell and the mitochondria, or the energy manufacturing center of the cells. A decline in mitochondrial function has long been known to accelerate aging.
Less common, but more active, in centenarians was a gene called BLVRA, which supports the healthy elimination of dangerous reactive oxygen species or free radical damage.
Historically, the rate of DNA damage—measured by Elizabeth Blackburn’s Noble Prize-winning research on telomeres–has been linked to accelerated aging. Since 2009, stopping or reversing DNA damage as measured by telomere lengthening has been an area of exciting longevity research.
Avurvedic Support for DNA Repair and Healthy Aging with Amalaki
There are many herbal agents that take damaged cells out of their misery and aim to reduce chronic degeneration, inflammation, and cell and DNA damage.
If I were asked which Ayurvedic herb supports healthy aging most effectively, there could only be one answer: amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica). In Ayurveda, longevity herbs are called rasayanas and in Western medicine they have been recently labelled senolytics, because they contain compounds that put damaging senescent cells to rest.
The Caraka Samhita, which is the primary text in Ayurveda, called amalaki the most revered and potent of all rasayanas. It is also uniquely effective for all body types in all seasons although it is harvested throughout the winter and spring.
The research on amalaki related to its potential to longevity genes is compelling. Numerous studies have linked amalaki supplementation with both mitochondrial support and cellular protection from toxic material related DNA damage.
In one study, supplementation of amalaki supported healthy mitochondrial respiration, which allowed cells to overcome various stressors. In the same study, amalaki supported health levels of AMPK, which is an enzyme responsible for recognizing the mitochondria’s need for nutrients and the delivery of those nutrients for normal energy production. AMPK is commonly found to decrease with age.
Amalaki has also been shown to upregulate healthy levels of Nrf2, which is considered the body’s master regulator for overcoming oxidative stress and DNA damage and supporting healthy aging and longevity.
Other research on Amalaki supplementation shows this herb can increase the amount of cellular oxygen consumed, suggesting that it protects cells against oxidative stress by supporting healthy and youthful levels of mitochondrial energy production and healthy aging.
Amalaki Supports Youthful Telomeres
Telomeres are protective chromosomal caps on DNA that, when damaged, are linked to accelerated aging. The genes found more commonly in the centenarians primarily protected DNA strands from damage. The enzyme that the body uses to protect against the shortening of telomeres is called telomerase. In the mainstream population, as opposed to the centenarian group, telomeres shortened with stress and age. Stopping or slowing the shortening of telomeres supports healthy aging while fighting against oxidative stress.
Telomeres are shortened dues to a variety of factors, including:
- A circadian imbalance dysregulating biological clocks
- DNA damage
- Environmental damage
- Programmed cellular aging
In one study, amalaki was found to protect telomeres from shortening in a group of healthy 45- to 60-years-olds.