In search of natural compounds with previously unknown geroprotective properties, researchers used a strain of budding yeast to test 53 plant extracts for their ability to impact the biology of aging and age-related diseases.
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As we age, humans are subjected to a wide variety of age-related diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver dysfunction, sarcopenia, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and many forms of cancer.
Plant extracts have been consumed for hundreds of years in dietary customs and used as traditional herbal medicines in China and in the Mediterranean. Some of these plant extracts are classified by government health agencies, such as Health Canada, as not only safe for human consumption but also as health-improving supplements with clinically proven benefits to human health. Researchers hypothesized that some of these plant extracts (PEs) may have geroprotective properties. A geroprotector is any compound capable of modulating the root cause of aging and age-related diseases to prolong lifespan in modeled organisms and animals. A couple of well-known potential geroprotectors include melatonin and metformin.
In their previous 2016 study, researchers from Concordia University and Idunn Technologies—both located in Quebec, Canada—screened 35 plant extracts and identified six as capable of prolonging the length of time a cell can survive, or its chronological lifespan (CLS), and delaying chronological aging in the wild type strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae budding yeast. On a mission to uncover a new set of plant extracts with geroprotectivity, these same researchers conducted a larger screening of new plant extracts in a 2020 study.
“The objective of the present study was to search for previously unknown aging-delaying (geroprotective) PEs. To attain this objective, we conducted a new screen of many extracts from plants used in traditional Chinese and other herbal medicines or the Mediterranean and other diets.”
In this study, to learn more about new PEs and the mechanisms of aging and longevity, the researchers continued using the wild type strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae budding yeast. They explained that S. cerevisiae has short and easily measurable replicative (number of times a cell can divide prior to senescence) and chronological lifespans, is completely sequenced, commercially available, and conducive to comprehensive molecular analyses.
Researchers tested 53 new plant extracts on chronologically aging S. cerevisiae budding yeast. The plant extracts were derived from fruits, berries, beans, herbs, flowers, roots, seeds, leaves, stems, whole plants, bulbs, buds, bark, skins, resin, aerial parts, mushroom bodies, and fermented rice.
“In a quest for previously unknown geroprotective natural chemicals, we used a robust cell viability assay to search for commercially available plant extracts that can substantially prolong the chronological lifespan of budding yeast.”
To determine potential geroprotectivity in their sample of plant extracts, the researchers cultured, diluted, and fed the budding yeast with glucose. Then, after adding the new PEs, they performed a variety of tests and calculated measurements, including: chronological lifespan assay; oxygen consumption assay; plating assay; quantitative assay; glucose concentration measurement assay; fluorescence microscopy; measurements of the frequencies of spontaneous mutations; age-specific mortality rates; the Gompertz slope; the mortality rate coefficient; and mortality rate doubling time.
“We discovered fifteen PEs that extend the longevity of chronologically aging budding yeast.”
The team was able to identify 15 new geroprotective PEs that have not previously been known for their ability to prolong the lifespan of yeast or other organisms. Based on the results of their measurements and assays, the researchers also identified the cellular processes that these PEs engaged in to prolong the yeast’s chronological lifespan.
“Our study provides evidence that each of the fifteen longevity-extending PEs satisfies all the criteria previously proposed for a CRM.”
CR stands for caloric restriction and CRM stands for caloric restriction mimetics. This means that these new PEs were found capable of mimicking the substantial anti-aging effects that calorie restriction has on organisms and animals, without a reduction in calorie intake.
“Each of the fifteen PEs extends the longevity of chronologically aging yeast under non-CR conditions on 2% (w/v) glucose significantly more efficiently than it does under CR conditions on 0.5% (w/v) glucose.”
They found that the PEs extended the longevity of chronologically aging yeast by decreasing the rate of aging, stimulating a hormetic stress response, intensifying mitochondrial respiration, altering the pattern of age-related changes in intracellular reactive oxygen species, and increasing cell resistance to long-term oxidative and thermal stresses.
“Each of the fifteen geroprotective PEs decreases the extent of age-related oxidative damage to cellular proteins, and many of them slow the aging-associated buildup of oxidatively impaired membrane lipids as well as mitochondrial and nuclear DNA.”
In addition to many more findings, the effects of these 15 PEs were found to decrease the frequency of mitochondrial DNA mutations in rib2 and rib3 proteins under non-calorie restricted conditions in S. cerevisiae.
The 15 plant extracts in this study that were newly discovered as geroprotective in S. cerevisiae are as follows: berry extract from a small palm commonly known as Saw Palmetto, extract of the aerial parts from a flowering plant commonly known as the St. John’s Wort, extract from the leaf of Yerba Mate, whole plant extract of Yerba Mate, extract from the leaf of Holy Basil/Tulsi, extract from the herb of the perennial plant Solidago Virgaurea, Orange fruit extract, whole plant extract from the common Hop (used in beer), Grape skin extract, whole plant extract from the Green Chiretta, root extract from the perennial Goldenseal herb, Fenugreek seed extract, Barberry root bark extract, extract from the leaf, flower, and stem of the common Hawthorn, and leaf extract from the Red-seeded Dandelion.
“Therefore, we are interested in investigating how different combinations of the fifteen geroprotective PEs described here influence the extent of yeast chronological aging delay. We will be looking for the combinations of geroprotective PEs that exhibit synergistic or additive effects on the extent of yeast chronological aging delay.”
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