Live a Little (Longer)

Study finds metabolic state of mitochondria controls life span, longevity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Scientists have discovered a new metabolic state that correlates with longer life span. Researchers from Texas set out to find what it takes to live a very long life in the worm C. elegans by "activating" life extension.

In the process of doing so, they found a new metabolic state that correlates with longer life span.

Because of the worms' relative simplicity and scientists' understanding of how genes control their metabolism, "C. elegans has provided a useful animal model for human biology," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, in which the study appears. "Helping these worms to live longer is a proof of concept; indeed much of what we now know about human aging was first worked out in these worms."

The scientists compared two different classes of C. elegans, one with long life spans (Mit mutants) and the other a non-mutant wild type of worm. The comparison yielded significant metabolism changes that suggest the worm's cellular "engines" had been reconfigured to run on new fuels and to make new waste products, leading to increased lifespans. They found that that the worms achieved long life through changes in how their cells extracted energy (metabolic state).    

More research will need to be conducted to determine if an equivalent metabolic state could be created in humans.

Said Weissmann: "With any luck, we'll be able to change human life in the same direction: onward and upward!"

Meanwhile, Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey is holding longevity research to an even higher standard by suggesting individuals will one day be able to live to 1,000. In fact, the first person to make it to that age may already be 60 years old, de Grey said. Thanks to the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence-- a very detailed plan to repair all the types of molecular and cellular damage that happen to us over time) project to prevent and cure aging, de Grey claims therapies derived from the plan will be available in humans in about 20 years.

"We will no longer all get frail and decrepit and dependent as we get older, and eventually succumb to the innumerable ghastly progressive diseases of old age," de Grey said.

Onward and upward, indeed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 1, 2010
Last Updated:
December 3, 2010