Gene link to longevity in worms

2013-02-19 11:35

(Remy Gabalda, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington – Scientists know that having colder blood tends to make animals live longer, but they don't know why.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have identified a "programme" in the genes that might help answer the question and also provide a clue about the longevity of humans exposed to cold.

The genetic programme promotes longevity of roundworms in cold environments. The scientists say it also exists in warm-blooded animals, including humans.

Scientists had long assumed that animals live longer in cold environments because of a passive thermodynamic process, reasoning that low temperatures reduce the rate of chemical reactions and thereby slow the rate of aging.

"But now, at least in roundworms, the extended lifespan observed at a low temperature cannot be simply explained by a reduced rate of chemical reactions," Shawn Xu said.

"It's in fact an active process that is regulated by genes."

Xu found that cold air activates a receptor known as the TRPA1 channel, found in nerve and fat cells in nematodes. TRPA1 then passes calcium into cells. A resulting reaction ultimately reaches a gene associated with longevity.

Mutant worms that lacked TRPA1 did not live longer. They actually had shorter life spans at lower temperatures.

"This raises the intriguing possibility that exposure to cold air, or pharmacological stimulation of the cold-sensitive genetic programme, may promote longevity in mammals," said Xu, a faculty member at the University of Michigan's Life Sciences Institute.

The research was published online this month in the journal Cell. It was announced at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

Researchers long have known that lowering the core body temperature of warm-blooded animals, such as mice, by 0.5 °C can extend lifespan by 20%, but it hasn't been practical for humans to attempt to lower the core body temperature, Xu said.

Because the mechanisms identified by Xu and his collaborators also exist in a range of other organisms, including humans, the research suggests that a similar effect might be possible in them.

The study also links calcium signaling to longevity for the first time and makes a novel connection between fat tissue and temperature response.

Xu said in addition to cool temperatures, the spicy condiment wasabi activates TRPA1 as well and feeding wasabi to nematodes increases their life spans.

"Maybe we should be going to sushi restaurants more often," he said.

Read more on:    research

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Millions of plastic particles in our food!

Scientists and researchers believe that almost five million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year and it’s affecting our food.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

It may be hard to maintain a steady rhythm as you find yourself juggling a zillion things. Slow down a little and let go of more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.