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Scientists may have cracked a cellular secret to living a longer life

Published Jan 9th, 2020 1:31PM EST
science news
Image: Heinz Schmidbauer/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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Do you want to live forever? Well, maybe not forever, but for a long, long, long time? An international group of scientists from several universities has announced an exciting breakthrough in boosting lifespan. In fact, their work has resulted in an organism living five times longer than it normally would have. This is obviously incredibly exciting. The only problem? This “fountain of youth” only applies to worms.

The scientists involved in the study worked with a species of nematode worm known as C. elegans., mining its cells in search of the keys to a long life. After performing a couple of special tweaks to the cellular pathways of the worms, the researchers were able to boost their lifespan by around 500%.

Toying with the cellular pathways of organisms has shown promise for extending lifespan, but the results of this research are still surprising. You see, the researchers actually combined two separate mutations that have been shown to elongate life. One of the modified pathways was expected to double the lifespan of the worm, while the other was expected to extend its life by around 30%.

An increase in lifespan of 130% is nothing to sneeze at, of course, but the results were even better than the scientists could have hoped. The two mutations seemed to combine, with a synergistic effect that resulted in an increase in lifespan of around 500%.

This is some seriously incredible news, but unfortunately, it’s still unclear exactly why these two cellular tweaks combined to have such a shocking effect.

“The synergistic extension is really wild,” Jarod A Rollins, co-lead author, said in a statement. “The effect isn’t one plus one equals two, it’s one plus one equals five. Our findings demonstrate that nothing in nature exists in a vacuum; in order to develop the most effective anti-aging treatments we have to look at longevity networks rather than individual pathways.”

Now, before you go dreaming of a pill that could make you live five times longer, you should know that we’re far from even considering the possibility of experimenting with such things in humans. Sometimes it pays to be a worm.