Mothers play a vital part in determining how quickly their children grow old by passing on genetic mutations that speed up the aging process, ultimately leading to a shorter lifespan, a new study suggests.
With aging, the changes that occur in the cell's energy factory -- the mitochondrion -- are particularly important. Located in the cell, the mitochondria takes nutrients, breaks them down and turns them into energy for the cell.
"The mitochondria contains their own DNA, which changes more than the DNA in the nucleus, and this has a significant impact on the aging process," said Dr. Nils-Göran Larsson, leader of the study, in a press release. "Many mutations in the mitochondria gradually dis-able the cell's energy production."
For the first time, the researchers have shown that the aging process is influenced not only by the accumulation of mitochondrial DNA damage during a person's lifetime, but also by the inherited DNA from their mothers.
"Surprisingly, we also show that our mother's mitochondrial DNA seems to influence our own aging," Larsson said. "If we inherit mDNA with mutations from our mother, we age more quickly."
What's still not known, however, is whether one can affect the amount of mDNA damage through lifestyle choices.
"Our findings can shed more light on the aging process and prove that the mitochondria play a key part in aging; they also show that it's important to reduce the number of mutations," Larsson said.
Even so, the researchers say they will investigate further to determine whether a lifespan actually can be extended by reducing the number of mutations.
For more information on the aging process, go here.