The laboratory dye “Basic Yellow-1” doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it could be the next “cure” for aging.
Almost all of our cellular functions, from cell division to metabolism, rely on proteins. In order to function properly these proteins must be correctly folded into 3D structures. Sometimes, proteins do not form the proper shapes and they must either be refolded or recycled. As we age the number of mis-folded proteins in our cells increases and they begin to form clumps that clog up our cellular systems. Scientists believe that this build up of junk protein is one of the underlying causes of aging.
Clumps of protein in the brain are thought to be on of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Basic Yellow-1 binds to protein clumps allowing researchers studying Alzheimer’s to visualize these clumps or plaques. However, Nature News reports that they also found that feeding worms an optimal dose of this dye extended their lifespan by 78% on average. They believe that the dye is able to alert the cell of the presence of these harmful groups of proteins.
Our body and cells recognize Basic Yellow-1 as a foreign molecule or intruder, so when the dye binds to the proteins it is essentially marking them as dangerous. It seems that our body’s repair mechanisms aren’t always very successful in noticing these protein aggregates and adding the dye molecule might just jumpstart the removal of these proteins, leading to a longer life.
This research is still in the very early stages. However, drugs related to this dye may someday be available to help extend life. While I think that it is very cool that this lab dye may also function as a clinical drug, what I want to know is – would you take it?