Beijing, Nov 6 (PTI) Chinese researchers claimed to have identified a unique group of cells that contributes to the ageing process and might be mitigated with everyday vitamin C supplements.
The cell subtype surrounds the motor neurons in the spinal cord and is believed to accelerate the ageing process, making it a factor in the shuffling gait common among the elderly, according to an unedited paper published by the peer-reviewed journal Nature, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Monday.
The seven-year study involved researchers from three labs who hoped their discovery could fill a knowledge gap in the poorly understood mechanisms underlying the relationship between ageing and the spinal cord’s critical role in sustaining health and mobility.
The study based on animal experiments was jointly supervised by Liu Guanghui and Qu Jing from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology, and Zhang Weiqi at the academy’s Beijing Institute of Genomics.
The team analysed single cells to identify unique groups that developed around ageing motor neurons in the spinal cords of elderly primates, Liu said in an interview with China’s state-owned Science and Technology Daily.
“These distinct cell clusters must have a specific life purpose. Our further investigation revealed that they secrete a ‘toxic’ protein that contributes to accelerating the ageing of motor neurons,” he said.
Despite accounting for only about 0.3-0.4 per cent of all spinal cord cells, motor neurons are the principal actors in regulating body movement. They control the body’s motor functions by directing skeletal muscles throughout the body.
“Our research also confirms that motor neurons are the most sensitive cells in the spinal cord when it comes to ageing,” the report quoted the paper as saying.
The researchers also tested whether vitamin C may play a role in reducing the signs of ageing. The everyday diet supplement has been around for decades but claims that it has anti-ageing properties have not been unequivocally proven in clinical trials.
The researchers tested the effects of vitamin C on 10 cynomolgus monkeys aged 17-18 years who were randomly divided into two groups.
One group was given a daily dose of vitamin C at 30mg/kg – dissolved in drinking water and given after breakfast – for 40 months. The other monkeys received the same quantity of drinking water, but without the supplement, to act as a control, the report said.
The researchers reported a “significant” improvement in the ageing-related indicators for the elderly monkeys’ motor neurons, suggesting that oral vitamin C supplements could be beneficial. PTI KJV PY PY PY