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.

30 Second Summary

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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