Writing in the journal Science this week, researchers at Cambridge University have made a step forward in understanding - and potentially tackling - Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS), a rare but distressing accelerated ageing disease. Caused by an unknown genetic fault, people with HGPS age dramatically from 6 months of ages, and usually only live until their teen years.
Researchers now know that cells from HGPS patients contain misshapen and fragile nuclei - the control centre that houses the cell’s DNA. The scientists tested a number of different chemicals to find ones that could shore up the structure of the nucleus and heal the cells - with their best candidate being a molecule they’ve called Remodelin. Next, the researchers went on to find out how Remodelin was working. They discovered that it blocks a molecule called NAT10, which was not previously known to be involved in ageing, and seems to work in a different way from existing drugs.
Only around 150 people worldwide suffer from HGPS, but the researchers hope their work might pave the way for treatments for other diseases that also involve ageing processes, including cancer, and even ways of tackling the problems of old age itself.