Scientists have found a biological command centre for the ageing process in a lump of brain the size of a nut.
The US team identified the mechanism in the hypothalamus, which sits deep inside the brain, and showed that they could tweak it to shorten or lengthen the lives of animals.
In a series of experiments, the researchers found they could extend the lives of mice by a fifth, without the animals suffering from muscle weakness, bone loss or memory problems common in old age.
The work raises the tantalising prospect of drugs that slow down natural ageing to prolong life in humans, but more crucially to prevent age-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
“We’re very excited about this. It supports the idea that ageing is more than a passive deterioriation of different tissues and it can be controlled,” said Dongsheng Cai in New York.
Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists describe how their research led them to what appears to be the body’s control centre for ageing.