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Depression And Stress Now Linked To Longevity, New Research Explains

Update Date: May 28, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

The observable effects of depression and stress that can be seen in a person's face -- and contribute to shorter lives -- can also be found in the modifications caused by genetic activity, according to a newly published research.

Academics from the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Scripps Research Institute have identified together a series of genes that may control the effects of good or bad mood and response to stress on lifespan. In particular, the exploration pointed out to a specific gene known as ANK3 as holding a major role in influencing a prolonged existence, Medical News Today reported. 

"We were looking for genes that might be at the interface between mood, stress, and longevity. We have found a series of genes involved in mood disorders and stress disorders which also seem to be involved in longevity," Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience explained.

These investigations and subsequent validation efforts were detailed in the May 24 journal of Molecular Psychiatry, in an article entitled, "Mood, Stress, and Longevity: Convergence on ANK3."

"Our subsequent analyses of these genes found that they change in expression with age and that people subject to significant stress and/or mood disorders, such as people who completed suicide, had a shift in expression levels of these genes that would be associated with premature aging and reduced longevity," Niculescu added.

In order to validate their findings, the authors conducted genetic and gene-expression studies, in C. Elegans and in humans. The also studied the C. Elegans process of inactivating mutants for ANK3/unc-44, which shows that they survive longer than wild-type, particularly in older worms, independently of mianserin treatment. They also showed that some ANK3/unc-44 expression is necessary for the effects of mianserin on prolonging the lifespan and survival in the face of oxidative stress, particularly in younger worms.

The researchers went even further as they studied more than 700 blood samples from psychiatric patients and people who had committed suicide. ANK3 was found in higher levels in older patients and those who had committed suicide.

The authors said that "these studies uncover ANK3 and other genes in our dataset as biological links between mood, stress, and lifespan that may be biomarkers for biological age as well as targets for personalized preventive or therapeutic interventions."

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