We’re another step closer to extending the life span of human beings.
Researchers in Switzerland have been studying the effect of genes on the aging process and have published their results in the journal Nature Communications. Of the 40,000 genes they studied, they found 30 that allow a variety of animals, including roundworms, zebrafish, and mice, to stay healthier and live longer. But these scientists focused specifically on genes that are also found in human beings, so the next step in their project is to see if these genes also have an impact on us as well.
When these 30 genes were selectively blocked in an organism, it slowed the aging process, which was measured by tracking the accumulation of aging pigments, how fast the animals moved, and how effectively they reproduced.
One gene, BCAT-1, had a particularly pronounced effect, extending the life span of roundworms by 25%. Michael Ristow, the author of the study and a professor at ETH Zurich, says that he is currently working to see what will happen when we inhibit this gene in human beings.
This research will no doubt be fascinating to the many organizations in Silicon Valley that are focusing on using gene therapies to lengthen human life spans. Google’s Calico Labs, for instance, says its mission is to “harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls life span.”
It’s probably a good idea to keep our expectations in check. In the 1880s, scientists discovered a jellyfish that appears to live forever, but we still haven’t been able to transfer its immortal qualities to humans. Still, researchers aren’t planning to give up any time soon.