A University of Rochester scientist said toxins in cigarette smoke wipe out a gene that plays a vital role in protecting against premature aging.
Irfan Rahman of the University of Rochester's lung biology and disease program identified the Sirtuin, or SIRT1, gene's role in pulmonary disease. He found SIRT1 not only protected against aging, but that its destruction left the lungs open to destructive inflammation and diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
Rahman, who spent years studying how the 4,700 toxic chemical compounds in cigarettes assault lung tissue, said that SIRT1 belongs to a class of genes that regulate chronic inflammation, cancer and aging. However, environmental stress such as cigarette smoke or pollution can decrease production of SIRT1 in the lungs.
The findings are published in two separate studies, in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine and in the American Journal of Physiology.
The researchers are testing how the antioxidant resveratrol, which is extracted from red grape skins, affect SIRT1.