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New Study: Just One Dietary Supplement Can Significantly Slow Down the Aging Process

Decreased levels of menin in the hypothalamus may play a key role in aging, according to a new scientific study. ScienceDaily.

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Cognitive abilities, bone mass, skin thickness and life expectancy all depend on the menin level.

The findings reveal a hitherto unknown factor in physiological aging and suggest that simple amino acid supplementation may mitigate some age-related changes. The study, led by Lige Leng of Xiamen University, Xiamen, China, and colleagues was published March 16 in the open access journal PLOS Biology.

Stem cells of the hypothalamus control the rate of aging of the body. Neuronal stem cells are known for their ability to control the formation of new neurons. The hypothalamus has been recognized as a key mediator of physiological aging through increased neuroinflammatory signaling over time. In turn, inflammation contributes to multiple age-related processes both in the brain and in the periphery.

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Recently, Leng and colleagues showed that menin, a hypothalamic protein, is a key inhibitor of hypothalamic neuroinflammation, leading them to wonder what role menin might play in aging. Here, they noticed that menin levels in the hypothalamus, but not in astrocytes or microglia, decrease with age. To investigate this decline, they conducted experiments on mice. They found that a decrease in menin levels in young mice resulted in increased hypothalamic neuroinflammation associated with aging phenotypes, including reduced bone mass and skin thickness, cognitive decline, and a moderate reduction in lifespan.

Another change brought about by the loss of menin was a decrease in the amino acid D-serine, known as a neurotransmitter and sometimes used as a dietary supplement found in soybeans, eggs, fish, and nuts. The authors showed that this decrease was due to the loss of activity of the enzyme involved in its synthesis (which, in turn, was regulated by menin).

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Can age-related changes and signs of physiological aging be reversed by regulating menin levels? To test this, the authors delivered the menin gene to the hypothalamus of aged (20-month-old) mice. Thirty days later, they found improvements in skin thickness and bone mass, as well as improvements in learning, cognition, and balance, which correlated with increased levels of D-serine in the hippocampus, a central region of the brain important for learning and memory. Notably, a similar positive effect on cognition, although not on peripheral signs of aging, may be due to three weeks of D-serine supplementation.

Much remains to be learned about the role of menin in aging, including the antecedent processes leading to its reduction. It is currently unclear how much and for how long phenotypic aging can be slowed down with D-serine supplementation.

“We hypothesize that the decrease in menin expression in the hypothalamus with age may be one of the driving factors of aging, and menin may be a key protein that binds genetic, inflammatory and metabolic factors of aging. D-serine is a potentially promising drug for the treatment of cognitive decline,” Leng said.

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“Menin signaling in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) is reduced in aged mice, contributing to systemic aging phenotypes and cognitive impairment. The effect of menin on aging is mediated by neuroinflammatory changes and metabolic pathway signaling accompanied by serine deficiency in VMH. Whereas menin recovery in VMH reverses the phenotypes associated with aging,” he added.

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