Open-Access Atlas Maps Roundworm Aging at Single-Cell Resolution

A new aging atlas provides scientists with a detailed view of how individual cells and tissues in worms age, and how various lifespan-extending strategies might halt the aging process.

Every component in the human body, including muscles and skin, is affected by aging.

Understanding how individual tissues and cells age may improve the understanding of the aging process and facilitate the creation of anti-aging therapies.

Owing to their brief lifespans, straightforward morphologies, and genetic resemblance to humans, roundworms are the subject of much research on aging.

Researchers from Janelia, Baylor College of Medicine, and Creighton University School of Medicine evaluated gene expression in each adult roundworm cell at various stages of the aging process to examine aging at the level of tissues and cells. They also profiled worm strains with extended lifespans.

The investigators combined their findings into a comprehensive transcriptome cell atlas of roundworm aging. The open-access atlas allows researchers to examine which genes are expressed simultaneously in every cell of the worm and how gene expression varies over time in both wild-type and longer-living worms.

The scientists created tissue-specific "aging clocks," or predictive models, using the atlas to identify the distinctive aging characteristics of various tissues. These clocks helped the researchers understand the anti-aging processes in worm strains with extended lifespans.

To find age-related changes in cell composition and gene expression in various phases of reproductive cells, the researchers also created the first germ cell fate trajectory map, which tracks the development of reproductive cells across time.

The map also gave the researchers insight into how polyadenylation, a crucial protein diversity and gene regulation process, changed throughout the worm as it grew older. They found a number of aging-related alterations in these happenings in several cell types, pointing to a yet unidentified connection between this process and aging.

Researchers now have a better understanding of aging at the molecular level thanks to these new discoveries, and other researchers can use the user-friendly data portal and open-access atlas as resources.

New ‘aging atlas’ provides a detailed map of how cells and tissues age

Researchers have profiled gene expression in each cell of adult roundworms at different times during the aging process for both wildtype and long-lived strains, creating a complete transcriptomic cell atlas of aging in roundworms. Video Credit: Wang Lab

Source:
Journal reference:

Gao, S. M., et al. (2024). Aging atlas reveals cell-type-specific effects of pro-longevity strategies. Nature Aging. doi.org/10.1038/s43587-024-00631-1.

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