Barcelona Team Boosts Worm Lifespan

Researchers at the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona have made a breakthrough discovery that could potentially extend the life expectancy of organisms by preventing premature aging. By studying the behavior of thousands of genetically identical worms, scientists found that the rate at which they aged varied greatly, with some living longer than others.

The team discovered that the main factor contributing to this variation was the imbalance in the messenger RNA (mRNA) content in germline cells and somatic cells. This imbalance, also known as “uncoupling,” caused aging to occur more rapidly in some individuals than in others.

The researchers found that the speed and magnitude of this uncoupling process was influenced by at least 40 different genes. Deleting some of these genes extended the lifespan of the worms, while deleting others shortened it. The study suggests that natural differences in aging could be due to random variations in gene activity, making it seem as if individuals have been exposed to the destruction of multiple genes.

Deleting three specific genes – aexr-1, nlp-28, and mak-1 – had a particularly significant impact on lifespan variation, reducing the natural range from approximately 8 days to 4 days. The study also found that deleting one of these genes disproportionately improved healthy aging in worms at the lower end of the health spectrum.

The study’s authors note that their findings are not about creating immortal worms, but rather about making aging a more equitable process. They believe that by understanding the genetic factors that influence aging, they can develop new ways to improve healthspan, or the length of time an individual remains healthy.

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