Health

Worm Clue to Life Extension

May 03, 2007 05:00 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Scientists researching roundworms discover a gene that extends life in response to a restricted diet, opening a path to the development of human longevity drugs.

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For many years, it has been known that mice, dogs, and some other animals, including roundworms, live up to 40% longer on diets that border on starvation.

One explanation for this is that restricted diets trigger a survival mechanism, allowing an organism to ride out periods of famine.

Now scientists experimenting on roundworms have found a way to fire that mechanism by manipulating a gene that controls insulin pathways.

Roundworms and humans share a surprisingly large number of genetic traits. So it may soon be possible to create a human drug that provides the life-extending benefits of a calorie-restriction diet without the pain of living on the edge of starvation.

Such a diet requires around a one-third reduction in calorie intake, a hardship few people are willing to endure.

It is still uncertain whether calorie-restriction works on people the way it does on some other animals. A primate study is underway. Though incomplete, the initial findings are positive.

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