Scientists may have found a way to halt aging in humans by discovering a way to do it in worms.
Two scientists at Northwestern University in Illinois have identified a genetic switch in a species of transparent roundworm that appears to disable the stress responses designed to protect cells by keeping certain important proteins functioning.
The switch is thrown automatically when the worms reach early adulthood but by re-enabling it the worms have the potential to live longer and to stay much healthier throughout their adult lives.
The researchers believe that these same mechanisms exist in all animals, including humans.
“Wouldn’t it be better for society if people could be healthy and productive for a longer period during their lifetime ?” said senior author Richard I. Morimoto. “I am very interested in keeping the quality control systems optimal as long as we can, and now we have a target.”
“Our findings suggest there should be a way to turn this genetic switch back on and protect our aging cells by increasing their ability to resist stress.”
In the worms the onset of adulthood and the flipping of the switch begins after just eight hours, a discovery that casts doubt on the notion that this is something that occurs gradually over time.
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