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Gene that slows down ageing process discovered

The research conducted by University of Birmingham, England and sponsored by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) revealed that intense activity of a gene called DAF-16, found in worms and animals, and FOXO gene found in humans tend to increase life-span in all these species.

Lead researcher, Robin May, University of Birmingham said, “We wanted to find out how normal ageing is being governed by genes and what effect these genes have on other traits, such as immunity.”

“I think there is definite potential, within our lifetime, that we will be able to develop drugs to slow the ageing process based on this gene. Although stopping the ageing process may not happen, slowing it down is quite realistic,” added May.

Details of the experiment
To determine how DAF-16 regulates ageing in different species, researchers studied the functioning of this gene that is responsible for controlling the normal process of ageing in animals and humans.

The research team conducted the experiment on four related species of laboratory worms by exposing them to short spurts of high temperature.

This resulted in escalation in the activity of DAF-16 in some worms. This increased activity led to longer existence, letting the researchers establish that there was strong link between gene activity and longevity, immunity, and disease resistance.

They further noted that different worms had varying gene activity, stressing that having more of the gene led to an increased life span.

Other findings of the experiment
The study researchers also established that DAF-16 was dynamic in most body cells and was very similar to FOXO genes in humans.

May emphasized that resistance and ageing is a mutual process and stated, “The fact that subtle differences in DAF-16 between species seem to have such an impact on ageing and health is very interesting and may explain how differences in lifespan and related traits have arisen during evolution.”

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC said, “It is very important to develop a good understanding of healthy ageing if we are to appreciate what happens to an older person’s physiology when they become unwell or experience difficulties with everyday tasks such as recalling memories or moving around.”

“The findings would help scientists understand some of the mechanisms that determine how humans age,” added Kell.

The study appears in the journal PLoS ONE.

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