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article imageGeneticists Discover a Way to Extend Lifespan to 800 Years

By Chris V. Thangham     Jan 17, 2008 in Health
U.S. geneticists have extended the lifespan of yeast bacteria ten-fold and say the technique can be translated to humans . By eliminating two genes and by cutting down calories, this discovery can extend the lifespan.
Valter Longo, the study leader from the University of Southern California, has developed a breakthrough technique on yeast bacteria: he says the baker’s yeast is capable of living up to 10 times its normal life (800 in yeast years) without any apparent side effects. It was done through a combination of dietary and genetic changes.
The baker’s yeast were given a calorie-restricted diet and the research team removed two genes, RAS2 and SCH9, which promotes aging in yeast and cancer in humans.
Longo’s research team found that the baker’s yeast lifespan was increased by a factor of 10 times. He claims it is the largest increase of lifespan accomplished by anyone. Since the basic building block is the cell, they believe if it can be applied for the yeast, it could be done for other living things also.
Why did the study involved baker’s yeast? Baker's yeast is one of the most studied and best understood organisms at the molecular and genetic level. Remarkably, in light of its simplicity, yeast has led to the discovery of some of the most important genes and pathways regulating aging and disease in mice and other mammals.
Longo's group wants to apply similar techniques on mice and see how it works. Besides this, the group is already studying such gene mutations in human populations occurring naturally in Ecuador.
Longo said to the PloS Genetics:
People with two copies of the mutations have very small stature and other defects…We are now identifying the relatives with only one copy of the mutation, who are apparently normal. We hope that they will show a reduced incidence of diseases and an extended life span.
Longo urges caution with this approach. In the Ecuador case, they found the mutations tend to come with severe growth deficits and other associated health problems. He said to find drugs that extend human lifespan without side effects are difficult to make.
Humans are more complex than the yeast or the mice, so it will need lots of work to reach this huge figure of 800 years lifespan. The scientists hate the word "impossible," so they will keep working until they find a way. But do we really need to live that long?
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