Scientists on track to slow down ageing
Researchers have identified 25 genes regulating lifespan in two organisms separated by 1.5 billion years - of which 15 are very similar to that of humans.
And thanks to that similarity, it may now be possible for scientists to target the genes to help slow down ageing and treat related conditions.
The findings of the study have been published online in the journal Genome Research.
The two organisms are the single-celled budding yeast and the roundworm C elegans - both commonly used models for ageing research.
Finding genes that are conserved between the two organisms is significant, because the two species are so far apart on the evolutionary scale-even farther apart than the tiny worms and humans.
That, combined with the presence of similar human genes, is an indication that these genes could regulate human longevity as well.
"Now that we know what many of these genes actually are, we have potential targets to go after in humans," said Brian Kennedy of the University of Washington (UW), a co-author of the study.
"We hope that in the future we could affect those targets and improve not just lifespan, but also the 'health span' or the period of a person's life when they can be healthy and not suffer from age-related illnesses," he said.
Several of the genes involved in aging are also connected to a key nutrient response pathway known as known as the Target of Rapamycin or TOR.
These findings also give new insight into the genetic basis of aging, the scientists said, and provide some of the first quantitative evidence that genes regulating ageing have been conserved during the process of evolution.
Earlier evolutionary theories suggested that ageing was not genetically controlled, since an organism does not get any advantage in natural selection by having a very long lifespan that goes far past their reproductive age.