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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/Long Life

Air Date: Week of August 18, 2006

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Living on Earth's Emily Torgrimson reports on developments in anti-aging treatments that have been successful in round worms.

Transcript

TORGRIMSON: Like a firmer body, smoother skin, and a more youthful appearance? Want a fountain of youth and the promise of immortality and vitality? Well, honey, don't we all. Worms included.

Scientists at the University of California in San Francisco have doubled the life span of worms by altering a single gene. They've stretched the life span of a simple roundworm from two weeks to a month. And these mature worms aren't just fading away in their relatively old age. Smooth and plump altered worms look better than worms half their age, like a 42-year-old with the vigor and potency of a supple 21-year-old.

It's by altering the gene known as daf-2 that researchers were able to approach worm immortality. Daf-2 has two parallels in mammals that are currently being tested with mice, the insulin receptor and insulin-like growth factor. By neutralizing the insulin receptor, a cell structure that regulates blood sugar, mice can live up to 18 percent longer than usual. And by reducing the insulin-like growth factor, called IDF-1, rodents can live up to a third longer.

Youth – the elusive obsession of Ponce de Leon and middle-aged consumers – is not a new field of research. Scientists have known for 70 years about a negative relationship between reduced caloric intake and a lengthened life span of animals like mice. Scientists don't know if humans, or larger mammals like monkeys, react the same way to a cutback in calories. But they'll keep exploring ways to prolong the life span of worms, mice, and humans to inconceivable lengths, and still keep us looking fabulous!

That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Emily Torgrimson.

 

 

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