• Cholesterol Homeostasis: An In Silico Investigation into How Aging Disrupts Its Key Hepatic Regulatory Mechanisms

      Morgan, Amy; Mc Auley, Mark; University of Chester
      The dysregulation of intracellular cholesterol homeostasis is associated with several age-related diseases, most notably cardiovascular disease (CVD). Research in this area has benefitted from using computational modelling to study the inherent complexity associated with the regulation of this system. In addition to facilitating hypothesis exploration, the utility of modelling lies in its ability to represent an array of rate limiting enzymatic reactions, together with multiple feedback loops, which collectively define the dynamics of cholesterol homeostasis. However, to date no model has specifically investigated the effects aging has on this system. This work addresses this shortcoming by explicitly focusing on the impact of aging on hepatic intracellular cholesterol homeostasis. The model was used to investigate the experimental findings that reactive oxygen species induce the total activation of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase (HMGCR). Moreover, the model explored the impact of an age-related decrease in hepatic acetyl-CoA acetyltransferase 2 (ACAT2). The model suggested that an increase in the activity of HMGCR does not have as significant an impact on cholesterol homeostasis as a decrease in hepatic ACAT2 activity. According to the model, a decrease in the activity of hepatic ACAT2 raises free cholesterol (FC) and decreases low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. Increased acetyl CoA synthesis resulted in a reduction in the number of hepatic low-density lipoprotein receptors, and increased LDL-C, FC, and cholesterol esters. The rise in LDL-C was restricted by elevated hepatic FC accumulation. Taken together these findings have important implications for healthspan. This is because emerging clinical data suggest hepatic FC accumulation is relevant to the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is associated with an increased risk of CVD. These pathophysiological changes could, in part, help to explain the phenomenon of increased mortality associated with low levels of LDL-C which have been observed in certain studies involving the oldest old (≥ 85 years).
    • Computational systems biology for aging research

      Mc Auley, Mark T.; Mooney, Kathleen M.; University of Chester ; Edge Hill University (Karger, 2015)
      Computational modelling is a key component of systems biology and integrates with the other techniques discussed thus far in this book by utilizing a myriad of data that are being generated to quantitatively represent and simulate biological systems. This chapter will describe what computational modelling involves; the rationale for using it, and the appropriateness of modelling for investigating the aging process. How a model is assembled and the different theoretical frameworks that can be used to build a model are also discussed. In addition, the chapter will describe several models which demonstrate the effectiveness of each computational approach for investigating the constituents of a healthy aging trajectory. Specifically, a number of models will be showcased which focus on the complex age-related disorders associated with unhealthy aging. To conclude, we discuss the future applications of computational systems modelling to aging research.
    • Computationally modeling lipid metabolism and aging: A mini-review

      Mc Auley, Mark T.; Mooney, Kathleen M.; University of Chester; Edge Hill University (Elsevier, 2014-11-15)
      One of the greatest challenges in biology is to improve the understanding of the mechanisms which underpin aging and how these affect health. The need to better understand aging is amplified by demographic changes, which have caused a gradual increase in the global population of older people. Aging western populations have resulted in a rise in the prevalence of age-related pathologies. Of these diseases, cardiovascular disease is the most common underlying condition in older people. The dysregulation of lipid metabolism due to aging impinges significantly on cardiovascular health. However, the multifaceted nature of lipid metabolism and the complexities of its interaction with aging make it challenging to understand by conventional means. To address this challenge computational modeling, a key component of the systems biology paradigm is being used to study the dynamics of lipid metabolism. This mini-review briefly outlines the key regulators of lipid metabolism, their dysregulation, and how computational modeling is being used to gain an increased insight into this system.
    • Electrochemically Detecting DNA Methylation in the EN1 gene Promoter: Implications for understanding Ageing and Disease

      Morgan, Amy; Acutt, Katie; Mc Auley, Mark; University of Chester
      There is a growing need for biomarkers which predict age-onset pathology. Although this is challenging, the methylome offers significant potential. Cancer is associated with the hypermethylation of many gene promoters, among which are developmental genes. Evolutionary theory suggests developmental genes arbitrate early-late life trade-offs, causing epimutations that increase disease vulnerability. Such genes could predict age related disease. The aim of this work was to optimise an electrochemical procedure for the future investigation of a broad range of ageing related pathologies. An electrochemical approach, which adopted three analytical techniques, was used to investigate DNA methylation in the EN1 gene promoter. Using synthetic single stranded DNA, one technique was able to detect DNA at concentrations as low as 10nM, with methylation status distinguishable at concentrations >25nM. A negative correlation could be observed between % methylation of heterogeneous solution and the key electrochemical parameter, Rct (r = -0.982, p < 0.01). The technique was applied to the breast cancer cell line MCF-7, where a similar correlation was observed (r = -0.965, p < 0.01). These results suggest electrochemistry can effectively measure DNA methylation at low concentrations of DNA. This has implications for the future detection of age-related disease.
    • Lipid metabolism and hormonal interactions: Impact on cardiovascular disease and healthy aging

      Mc Auley, Mark T.; Mooney, Kathleen M.; University of Chester ; Edge Hill University (informa health care, 2014-07)
      Populations in developed nations are aging gradually; it is predicted that by 2050 almost a quarter of the world’s population will be over 60 years old, more than twice the figure at the turn of the 20th century. Although we are living longer, this does not mean the extra years will be spent in good health. Cardiovascular diseases are the primary cause of ill health and their prevalence increases with age. Traditionally, lipid biomarkers have been utilized to stratify disease risk and predict the onset of cardiovascular events. However, recent evidence suggests that hormonal interplay with lipid metabolism could have a significant role to play in modulating cardiovascular disease risk. This review will explore recent findings which have investigated the role hormones have on the dynamics of lipid metabolism. The aim is to offer an insight into potential avenues for therapeutic intervention.