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Scientists have recently successfully extended the life span of C. elegans by five times, which brings new hope for the research of anti-aging.
Caenorhabditis elegans is a kind of transparent nematode that lives independently, and its length is about 1 mm. The nematode is a popular model for aging research because many of its genes are the same as those of humans. And with a lifespan of just three to four weeks, it allows scientists to quickly assess the impact of genetic and environmental interventions on life extension.
By adjusting some cellular pathways, Chinese and American research teams have successfully bred a nematode that lives more than 14 weeks, a fivefold increase in its life span. This extension of life is equivalent to 400 to 500 years of a persons life.
Why do we use Caenorhabditis elegans to study human diseases?
C. elegans and humans have a common ancestor: urbialian. Urbiaterian, which lived 500-600 million years ago, is the ancestor of all bilaterally symmetric multicellular organisms, including mammals. Most of the genes involved in human evolution and disease are present in urbialian.
In the process of evolution, the existing genetic mechanism is preserved, but it will change slightly to evolve different species. Therefore, the neurons, skin, intestines, muscles and other tissues of C. elegans are very similar to those of human beings in morphology and function. This similarity allows scientists to assess the impact of genetic and environmental interventions on worms, and thus to study how to extend life.
Double channel adjustment
The new study uses a double mutant nematode sample, whose insulin signaling pathway (IIS) and TOR pathway have been genetically modified. Previous studies have confirmed that the change of IIS pathway can increase its life span by 100%, while the change of TOR pathway can increase its life span by 30%, so the life span of double mutants is expected to increase by 130%. But its life expectancy has increased by 500%.
Scientists said: this synergy of life growth is really crazy, the effect is not simply one plus one. Although some drugs are being developed to expand tor and IIS pathways, it may take a while for this technology to be applied to humans.
Making the same change in humans is unlikely to lead to a fivefold increase in human lifespan because we are more complex than nematodes, the researchers said. Our immune system, cardiovascular system and complex brain are not available to nematodes. We need to learn more about how all of these systems interact before we can extend human life, but there may still be side effects.
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