Scientists at The University of Nottingham found a way to slow down the effects of aging. They found that targeting a protein called carbonic anhydrase within our cells could not only slow down aging, it could also stop the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and other neurodegenerative conditions.

In their study published in the journal Aging, the research team explains that the protein found in a cell’s mitochondria converts oxygen into the energy required to power our body.

“What’s really exciting about this development is that we have been able to surmise that the function of this protein is playing a role in the aging process within the cell,” says lead researcher Lisa Chakrabarti of the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. “This gives us a very promising start in working out how we can best target this protein within the mitochondria to slow the effects of aging in the body while limiting other unwanted side effects on the body. It could potentially offer a significant new avenue in both tackling degenerative illnesses and the general effects of aging on the body.”

For the study, the team separated all the protein found in the brain cell’s mitochondria using a process called 2D gel electrophoresis. The brains they tested were normal young brains as well as normal middle-aged brains.

Comparing the two, they found that the protein was more abundant and more active in middle-aged brains. The same can also be found in young brains that suffer from early degeneration.

When they fed the protein to worms, the researchers found that the worms that took it suffered from reduced life span. This confirmed their analysis.

Nevertheless, the research team is still studying the chemical compounds that they can use to target the protein and prevent its effects. They are optimistic that their study could open the way for drugs that target carbonic anhydrase in the cell’s mitochondria.