Collagen and other extracellular matrix structures tend to deteriorate with time and collagen has been implicated in various human diseases, from complications with diabetes to kidney and bone diseases, also passing through cardiovascular illnesses. The field of aging has often focused on mechanisms that protect or regenerate cells, although extracellular matrix is what holds it all together.
A group of researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center used a microscopic worm, C. elegans, to identify a new path that could lead to drugs that are able to slow aging and chronic diseases that often accompany it. The scientists found that any kind of intervention improved longivity of these worms, including calorie restriction, increased the expression of collagen and other proteins belonging to the extracellular matrix, that supports tissues, organs and bones. Interfering with the expression of this protein seems to mean that one interferes with the lifespan extension, in fact, over-expression of some of these genes made the study worms live a little longer. (Nature online 2014, published 15 December)