by Arjun Walia
After 10 years years of rigorous investigation and research, scientists from the University of Washington and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have found 238 specific genes that, when removed, significantly extend the replicative lifespan of yeast cells.(source)
The study was carried out on approximately 4,700 yeast strains, and scientists have said that these results could be applied to humans as well.
“This is the first time 189 of these genes have been linked to aging. These results provide new genomic targets that could eventually be used to improve human health.” (source)
The research was published online earlier this month in the journal Cell Metabolism.
To determine which yeast strains yielded increased lifespan, the researchers counted them and logged how many ‘daughter cells’ a mother produced before it stopped dividing.
Scientists discovered that deleting a gene called LOS1 produced “particularly stunning” results:
LOS1 helps relocate transfer RNA (tRNA), which bring amino acids to ribosomes to build proteins. LOS1 is influenced by mTOR, a genetic master switch long associated with caloric restriction and increased lifespan. In turn, LOS1 influences Gcn4, a gene that helps govern DNA damage control. (source)
Lead author Dr. Brian Kennedy, PhD said that calorie restriction has been known to extend lifespan for a long time, and that the DNA damage response is linked to aging as well. He said that the LOS1 may be connecting these different processes.
Researchers from the University of Southern California recently published a study showing how prolonged fasting protects against immune system damage, as well as assists in immune system regeneration. They concluded that fasting shifts stem cells from a dormant state to one of renewal. This also helps fight against cancer and various other diseases, and increases lifespan.(source) You can read more about that here, but keep in mind that various studies on caloric restriction have shown that it is indeed connected to increased lifespan, as Dr. Kennedy points out above.
The scientists who discovered these age-extending genes also found a number of them in C. elegans roundworms, indicating that these mechanisms are conserved in higher organisms.
“In fact, many of the anti-aging pathways associated with yeast genes are maintained all the way to humans.” (source)
Prolonging life is not a new idea, and has been explored throughout ancient history in religion, philosophy, mysticism, hermeticism, occultism, and more. It’s a recurring human concern which continues to be studied in the modern day world of science.
For examples, corporations today are trying to develop drugs that extend the human lifespan. Human Longevity Inc. is one example, developed by pioneering American biologist and technologist Craig Venter.
A team of scientists, led by Vladimir P. Skulachev — the Dean of the School of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics — have also been working on this subject for quite some time. Vladimir is regarded as one of the world’s best in his field, and is the founder of “mitochondrial electricity” and the “Skulachev Ion,” which are penetrating ions that are electrophoretically targeted to mitochondria. His discoveries may extend human lifespan and cure age-related diseases including cancer, cataracts, and osteoporosis. The drug works by targeting mitochondrial oxidation. You can read more about that story here.
It is always interesting to discuss the ethics of these kinds of developments. Is it natural to ‘tamper’ with human life? Is it unnatural? Is it natural because our natural ability to think, discover, and explore new things led us to this breakthrough? Would you want to extend your life by another 50-100 years? Why or why not?