Why some peo­ple age faster than oth­ers

Tehran Times - - SCIENCE -

Ever won­der what it is about some peo­ple that makes them able to run marathons into their 70s? For the first time, sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied a ge­netic path­way that may reg­u­late the rate at which we age. Build­ing on their re­search is ex­pected to im­prove our un­der­stand­ing of how to keep our bod­ies healthy even as they grow older.

Be­cause peo­ple want to live for­ever, most sci­en­tific re­search on the ag­ing process fo­cuses on longevity, mean­ing ways to stretch our nat­u­ral life­span. What it tends to over­look is age-re­lated be­hav­ioral de­cline, which seems re­miss since if we are all go­ing to live for­ever we’d want to do so with bod­ies and brains that have re­mained healthy. Longevity and be­hav­ioral ag­ing aren’t nec­es­sar­ily re­lated pro­cesses; just be­cause we ex­tend one doesn’t mean the other gets pulled along with it.

Re­searchers study­ing ne­ma­todes called Caenorhab­di­tis el­e­gans, worm-like crea­tures about 1 mil­lime­ter long, dis­cov­ered two genes that ap­peared to have re­cently un­der­gone a “se­lec­tive sweep,” ge­netic edit­ing due to the nat­u­ral se­lec­tion process. These par­tic­u­lar ne­ma­todes are fre­quently used in anti-ag­ing re­search be­cause their nat­u­rally short life­span means any changes to longevity are easy to ob­serve. A pa­per de­tail­ing the re­search was pub­lished in the sci­en­tific jour­nal Na­ture.

“De­spite the con­sid­er­able in­ter­est in study­ing nat­u­ral vari­a­tion in ag­ing rate to iden­tify fac­tors that con­trol healthy age­ing, no such fac­tor has yet been found,” the au­thors wrote in the pa­per. “Here we re­port a ge­netic basis for vari­a­tion in ag­ing rates in Caenorhab­di­tis el­e­gans.

So not all the ne­ma­todes aged at the same rate. Viril­ity and lo­co­mo­tion, as you might have guessed, re­fer re­spec­tively to phys­i­cal strength and abil­ity to walk (or wrig­gle) and other­wise move around. Pha­ryn­geal pump­ing refers to things mov­ing smoothly down the pas­sages from our nose and mouth to our lungs and stom­ach— breath­ing, drink­ing, and eat­ing.

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