Changing a single gene allows mice to live 20 percent longer

first_imgA research team at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has been experimenting with changing mouse genes and seeing how it impacts their life. In a surprising discovery, when targeting just one gene change it was found they could extend the life of a mouse by 20 percent.To put that in context, in a human that would mean a life extension of around 16 years, or taking the average human life span from 79 to 95. On paper that sounds great, but it’s not all good news for the mouse and therefore wouldn’t be for humans either right now.The gene the researchers focused on is called mTOR and is associated with metabolism. By lowering its expression (to about 25 percent of what is normal) in a batch of mice they did indeed live longer. They also displayed better memory, balance, muscle strength, and posture as they aged. However, the health of their bones deteriorated more quickly and their immune system was weakened, suggesting that extra time alive wouldn’t really be worth it in terms of overall health.What it does prove is that the different parts of the body age at different rates. Toren Finkel, lead researcher on the project, describes it as a body having several aging clocks. Combined they determine the overall age of the body.One gene change has both positive and negative effects, but if research can get the mix of gene changes right it could result in a way of extending life without any major health downsides. At the very least it’s worth continuing the research to come up with new ways to treat specific diseases related to aging such as Alzheimer’s disease.[Image credit: polarqueen on Wikipedia]last_img read more