Dieting worms live for longer

Posted Jun 23, 2014 by Tim Sandle
Reducing the food to a worm called C. elegans triggers a state of arrested development. The end result is that the worm can live twice as long as normal.
Scanning electron micrograph of a pair of Schistosoma mansoni
Scanning electron micrograph of a pair of Schistosoma mansoni
Davies Laboratory Uniformed Services University Bethesda, MD
Scientists have found that when the worm is put onto a strict diet it continues to wriggle about, foraging for food. At the same time, however, its cells and organs are suspended in an ageless state. When food becomes plentiful again, the worm develops as intended, but it can also live twice as long as normal.
Caenorhabditis elegans is a tiny nematode worm and one often used for experiments. The transparent worm can be administered dyes, which allows researchers to see what is happening at the cellular level. The worm was the first ever organism to have its entire genome mapped.
Through the new study, researchers have concluded that development is not a continuous non-stop process but rather there are different check-points. With the worms, if nutrients are withheld at a particular checkpoint, then development is paused and lifespan of the worm can be increased.
Whether the research can one day be translated to work with people is a point of scientific debate. The research team behind this study, based at Duke University, are of the view that it might be one day possible to pharmacologically manipulate the worm process so that scientists can get the anti-aging benefits without the pain of diet restriction.
The results of the research have been published in the journal PLOS Genetics. The paper is headed “Larval Stage Developmental Checkpoints in Caenorhabditis elegans Regulated by Insulin/IGF and Steroid Hormone Signaling Pathways.”