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Anti-aging: A little stress may keep cells youthful

The aging-related protein SIRT1 regulates heat shock response, a mechanism cells use to combat stress

A lot of stress can turn your hair gray, but a little stress can actually delay aging. A protein tied to protecting cells from stress also helps slow aging, a new study finds. The research, published February 20 in Science, identifies a key regulator of a mechanism cells use to prevent protein damage from stress.

Exposure to heat, cold or heavy metals can damage proteins and unravel them from their usual conformations — trauma that can cause cell death. But cells have a damage-limiting mechanism called the heat shock response to combat these and other stresses. As part of the heat shock response, special protein repair molecules patch up the damaged proteins and refold them correctly, preventing death and extending the life of the cell.

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