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Are Peptides the Epigenetic Secret to the Fountain of Youth?

Are Peptides the Epigenetic Secret to the Fountain of Youth?

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Lisa Batten

PhD Psychology, Nootropics Specialist

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Are Peptides the Epigenetic Secret to the Fountain of Youth?

Table of contents

Aging is inevitable, but do we have any control over how rapidly we age? Maybe!

The exact mechanisms behind why or how we age aren’t fully known. Researchers have discovered many genetic and epigenetic influences that impact how our cells change over time. Epigenetic influences on aging are of particular interest since they can be influenced by external factors like diet, physical activity, and supplements. It is thought that epigenetics influences around 70% of our aging and certain epigenetic changes can be reversed.

Man after work

In this article, we’ll look at the latest research investigating the possibility of using peptides to help slow the aging process. First, let’s look at the role of epigenetics in aging.

The Role of Epigenetics in Aging

Aging refers to the biological process of getting older. While some age-related changes are not reversible, changes due to certain epigenetic mechanisms can be. 

Epigenetics is the study of how genes are affected by environment and behavior. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes do not change your DNA sequence but instead, change how your body reads a DNA sequence. 

For instance, certain epigenetic changes, directly affected by behaviors like exercise, affect how particular genes are turned on or off. As we age, these changes influence everything from skin elasticity to the development of Alzheimer’s. 

How Does Epigenetics Work?

Certain epigenetic changes offer a potential way to treat age-related decline because they present pathways to manipulate how genes are expressed.

Biological research

Here are the three types of epigenetic changes that affect how genes are expressed in the aging process:

  1. DNA Methylation
    DNA Methylation changes the activity of DNA without changing its sequence. It does so by adding a chemical group to specific places on the DNA where it blocks proteins that “read” the gene. Just as methylation turns genes “off”, they can be turned back “on” via demethylation. The level of DNA methylation decreases [1] with age.
  2. Histone Modification
    Histones are proteins in cells that provide structural support to chromosomes. If a single strand of DNA were stretched out it would be several meters in length. In order to fit into a cell, DNA must wrap itself tightly around histones. The resulting complex formed is known as chromatin.

    Chromatin not only acts as a way to condense DNA, but it also affects how genes are expressed. For instance, some genes cannot be accessed while tightly wound around a histone so chromatin would have to uncoil in order for the DNA to be “read”. This process of opening up is referred to as chromatin remodeling. Chemical groups can be added or taken away that can cause chromatin remodeling. Aging is associated with an overall loss of histones and changes to chromatin.
  3. Non-coding RNA
    RNA is essential in many biological processes and the expression of genes. Coding RNA is used to make proteins. Non-coding RNA helps to regulate gene expression by breaking down coding RNA, preventing the formation of proteins. Non-coding RNA may also play a role in the epigenetics of aging by modifying histones to turn genes “on” or “off”. 
RNA

Peptides and Anti-aging

Peptides have gained considerable attention as a potential way to influence various aspects of epigenetic regulation [2]. Peptides are branches of amino acids with peptide bonds that are very easy for the body to absorb and use. They come from natural and synthetic sources. 

Peptides are the major signaling molecules in our bodies and play a significant role in epigenetic expression. There are thousands of types of peptides being investigated for their anti-aging properties. Here are the four types of peptides and how they can influence epigenetics and aging.

  1. Endogenous Peptides: Endogenous peptides are produced naturally by the body. They are able to regulate gene expression by selectively increasing or decreasing DNA methylation or modifying histones.

    One of the most well-known examples of an endogenous peptide is collagen. Supplementing with collagen has been shown [3] to improve skin elasticity, reduce joint pain [4], strengthen bones, and may improve muscle mass [5].

    Copper peptide GHK-Cu is another popular anti-aging peptide that is naturally found in human saliva and urine. Copper peptides assist with wound healing, inflammation, immunity, and skin elasticity (collagen production). Copper peptides also appear to downregulate genes [6] involved with lung inflammation and destruction. Levels of copper peptides drop as we age and supplementation with GHK-Cu has become popular in anti-aging cosmetics and among bio-hackers.
     
    DNA

    Other endogenous peptides are being investigated for the treatment of age-related diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer's. For instance, a peptide called human proislet has been shown [7] to improve glycemic control for people with diabetes.

    In the fitness world, a natural peptide derived from human gastric juice called BPC-157 has gained a solid reputation. BPC-157 [8] has been shown to quickly heal tendons, ligaments, and bones. It has also been demonstrated [9] to vastly improve gut, gum, and eye health.
  2. Food-Derived Peptides: Dietary proteins contain hundreds of sequences of amino acids known as bioactive peptides. These bioactive proteins can have various benefits to human health. Some bioactive proteins may help prevent age-related decline through their action on major organs involved with metabolic disease.

    LPYP and IAVPGEVA are two peptides isolated from soy that may improve glucose metabolism, control cholesterol [10], and improve liver function. Another soy-derived polypeptide called lunasin acts on histones to prevent cancer growth [11].

    A clinical study [12]showed that 30g a day consumption of lupin peptides, derived from eating lupini beans, for just four weeks led to a significant reduction in unhealthy cholesterol levels.
     
    Lupin

    Other bioactive peptides target age-related decline by fighting free-radicals. Free-radicals cause damage to cells and are a key factor that drives aging. There have been numerous peptides identified over the years that help prevent free-radical damage. For instance, five anti-oxidant properties in quinoa [13] known as IVLVQEG, TLFRPEN, VGFGI, FTLIIN, and LENSGDKKY, were identified to help battle aging. Similarly, whey protein from cows was found to have peptides, such as ALPM and AVEGPK, which specifically protect muscle cells [14]. Food-derived peptides are numerous and show us that our diet can indeed directly impact how we age.
  3. Environmental Peptides: These peptides are found in the environment and are primarily produced by microbial species. They act through various pathways to affect gene expression and are most commonly investigated for their anti-cancer properties.

    Some environmental peptides such as romidepsin are a byproduct of fermentation. Romidepsin has been approved for use as an anti-cancer agent and is being investigated for use in HIV and Autism.

    Over the years, numerous environmental peptides have been derived from bacteria, fungus, and parasites. Fungal metabolites like chlamydocin have been found to target tumors [15]. Other fungal metabolites, such as FR235222, show immunosuppressive activities by inhibiting T cell proliferation.

    Overall, environmental peptides have good potential for fighting diseases related to aging, especially cancer.
     
    Chemical research
  4. Synthetic Peptides: Synthetic peptides are manufactured in laboratories. They have a variety of functions and are mainly designed to target specific histones.

    One extremely well-known synthetic protein in the field of longevity research is Epitalon. Discovered by former USSR scientists [16], this peptide has been found to increase telomere length, thus reducing biological age. Elderly participants in Epitalon trials had an 80% increase in bone density, improved well-being and fitness levels, and between a 16% and 33% increase in telomere length. Clinical trials examining Epitalon are limited but many bio-hacking enthusiasts swear by its efficacy.

    Other synthetic peptides, such as Lysine-specific demethylase 1, have been shown to fight cancer through chromatin remodeling.

    Recently, a company called Nuritas [17] launched a widely-funded initiative focused on anti-aging peptides. They have now developed and released PeptiYouth™, a peptide that has been shown to reduce wrinkles, reduce inflammation, and improve collagen production.

Epigenetics and Peptides

The effect of peptides on epigenetic expression will never be a straightforward science because so many factors can influence genetic regulation. However, there have been multiple exciting breakthroughs that have helped us better understand the changes that occur to human genes over time and possible ways to slow or reverse those changes.

Healthy food

As scientists continue to examine peptides for their therapeutic uses in the treatment of age-related disease, you may be wondering how you can slow the aging process through epigenetics and peptides.

Here are some proven ways to slow down your biological clock:

  1. Eat well: Whole foods and plant-derived protein are excellent sources of peptides. In particular, quinoa, soy, tomatoes, eggs, milk, beans, hemp, and flaxseed have all been proven to be rich in beneficial bioactive peptides. Incorporating fermented food and “anti-aging” diets like the sirtfood diet or intermittent fasting may also help you.
  2. Exercise: Physical activity is great for your overall health but also has been shown to reduce or even reverse epigenetic mutations associated with aging. 
  3. Visit a clinic: There are various anti-aging clinics [18] popping up all over the nation. These clinics specialize in prescribing tailored anti-aging programs based on your presenting needs. 
  4. Keep reading: As research continues to develop and more compounds are being made available for personal use, sites like Ultiself will keep you up to date on all the exciting longevity research.

References

  
  1. Distinct DNA methylomes of newborns and centenarians. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22689993/
  2. Epigenetic mechanisms of peptidergic regulation of gene expression during aging of human cells. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25761685/
  3. Effects of collagen-derived bioactive peptides and natural antioxidant compounds on proliferation and matrix protein synthesis by cultured normal human dermal fibroblasts. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6041269/
  4. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17076983/
  5. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594048/ 
  6. A gene expression signature of emphysema-related lung destruction and its reversal by the tripeptide GHK. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4064320/
  7. Human Proislet Peptide Promotes Pancreatic Progenitor Cells to Ameliorate Diabetes Through FOXO1/Menin-Mediated Epigenetic Regulation. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29716892/
  8. How To Use BPC-157: A Complete Dummies Guide To Healing The Body Like Wolverine. https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/supplements-articles/how-to-use-bpc-157/
  9. BPC 157 and Standard Angiogenic Growth Factors. Gastrointestinal Tract Healing, Lessons from Tendon, Ligament, Muscle and Bone Healing. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29998800/
  10. Isolation and Identification of Peptides from Soy 11S-Globulin with Hypocholesterolemic Activity. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10600-006-0017-6
  11. Abstract 10693: Identification of Lunasin as the Active Component in Soy Protein Responsible for Reducing LDL Cholesterol and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/circ.126.suppl_21.a10693
  12. Lupin protein exerts cholesterol-lowering effects targeting PCSK9: From clinical evidences to elucidation of the in vitro molecular mechanism using HepG2 cells. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464616000980
  13. Improving the antioxidant properties of quinoa flour through fermentation with selected autochthonous lactic acid bacteria. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27810447/
  14. Bovine whey peptides transit the intestinal barrier to reduce oxidative stress in muscle cells. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30902298/
  15. Inhibition of histone deacetylases by chlamydocin induces apoptosis and proteasome-mediated degradation of survivin. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12538846/
  16. Peptides, Genome, Ageing. https://khavinson.info/research/peptides-genome-ageing
  17. Nuritas launches PeptiYouth™ an AI-discovered peptide, clinically proven, anti-aging molecule. https://www.longevity.technology/easy-peasy-series-bsy/
  18. American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. https://www.a4m.com/

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