Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Modulating the lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans

For The First Time: Longevity Modulated Without Disrupting Life-sustaining Function
Within a hormone-triggered cascade of molecular signals that plays a crucial for a wide range of physiological functions, researchers for the very first time have identified a protein that functions specifically to extend lifespan and youthfulness -- without disrupting fertility, immunity or the organism's response to stress.

In mammals there is a pathway associated with insulin and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) which (among other things) affects individual growth and development. But messing around with this pathway can have very undesirable side effects, such as diabetes. In C. elegans there is a cell surface receptor (DAF-2) analogous to the insulin/IGF-1 receptor in mammals. It is known that altering the signaling pathway associated with DAF-2 can extend the worm's lifespan, but there are also undesirable side effects. Now the protein associated with the Smk-1 gene has been found to modulate changes to the DAF-2 pathway so as to avoid the side effects. This suggests that the mammalian insulin/IGF-1 pathway can also be better controlled to enhance lifespan without harming other critical processes.

Related article: Our cousin, Caenorhabditis elegans

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