Scientists have identified a molecule that they say could serve as a fountain of youth for the vascular system. It could also offer a way to turn back the circulatory system’s clock, say researchers.

The molecule, which the liver produces during fasting or calorie restriction, can delay vascular aging by preventing senescence — the gradual deterioration of a cell’s ability to divide and multiply—among endothelial cells, which line the interior surface of blood vessels.

Called ß-Hydroxybutyrate, the molecule not only promotes cell division, but also helps fight against senescence caused by accumulated DNA damage, the primary cause of aging.

Vascular Cell Senescence

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States among men and women, and age is the number one risk factor. In large part, that’s because of the damage that occurs in our blood vessels as we grow older.

“When people grow old, the vessels that supply different organs are the most sensitive to age-related damage. If we can make the vascular system ‘younger,’ it could reduce the risk of not just cardiovascular disease but also Alzheimer’s disease and cancer,”

says Ming-Hui Zou, director of the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine at Georgia State and senior author of the paper.


Unfortunately, it takes more than just skipping a meal to produce the molecule naturally. The liver only makes ß-Hydroxybutyrate during periods of extremely restrictive food intake, starvation, or prolonged intense exercise.

So researchers are working to develop a chemical that can mimic its effects.

“It’s been known that fasting can have an anti-aging effect, but our work has provided a chemical link. The next step is figuring out how to turn this discovery into a tool that can be used by anyone, not just dieters,”

says Zou.

Young-min Han, Tatiana Bedarida, Ye Ding, Brian K. Somba, Qiulun Lu, Qilong Wang, Ping Song, Ming-Hui Zou β-Hydroxybutyrate Prevents Vascular Senescence through hnRNP A1-Mediated Upregulation of Oct4 Molecular Cell Volume 71, Issue 6, p1064-1078.E5, Sept 20, 2018

Image: Jared Sluyter/Unsplash

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