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Ageing stopped in mice. Humans next?

A team of US scientists, including two NRIs, has found a hormone that extends life in mice, reports S Rajagopalan.

health and fitness Updated: Oct 01, 2005 16:29 IST

A team of Dallas scientists, including two Indians, has discovered a protein that prolongs life in mice by controlling insulin -- a research feat that is set to give a push to efforts to develop anti-ageing therapies for humans.

The protein, Klotho, acts as a hormone in mice, circulating through the blood and binding to cells, says the team from the University of Texas's Southwestern Medical Centre in findings reported in the online edition of Science.

The two Indians on the 10-member University of Texas team are Dr Animesh Nandi, research associate, and Prem Gurnani, research scientist.

"It could be one of the significant steps for developing anti-ageing therapy," team leader Makoto Kuro-o said in a university announcement.

In an interview to the Dallas Morning News, however, he said: "I'm not very positive about using it (Klotho) to extend (human) lifespan… But it might be useful in treatment of age-related disease." He pointed to the possibility of slowing the decline in particular tissues such as bones or the brain, thus improving the lives of the elderly.

The hormone has, however, worked wonders in extending the lifespan of mice. With the help of this hormone, say the researchers, mice can live up to the age of three, a year longer than an average mouse -- a 31 per cent extension of life.

"The researchers were especially interested in how the hormone affected insulin, because making an animal resistant to insulin increases its lifespan -- a phenomenon found in animals ranging from worms to fruit flies to mice," the university's announcement said.

Kuro-o and his colleagues -- who originally discovered the Klotho gene in 1997 -- said mice with higher levels of Klotho had more insulin in their system than normal mice. This led to the conclusion that Klotho mice were resistant to insulin; they had to make more of it to make up for the resistance.

Whatever the final impact of the discovery on human longevity, the buzz is already on. "This is a significant discovery,” said the National Institute on Aging.

First Published: Aug 27, 2005 03:43 IST