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Scientists Extend Lifespan of Worms by 500 Percent

The scientific world has always been in a war with the process of ageing. Ageing is the limit to human potential that nature has set for an individual. But now a group of scientists might have just turned the tables through expanding lives of certain worms by 500 percent.

c.elegans is a type of little worm that find themselves in the labs of age researchers all over the world. The reason for this – they share many similar-pathways with humans and lasts only around three to four weeks. This makes their age cycle very easy to study.

In their new study published in the journal “Cell Reports”, the researchers are talking about altering two pathways in the worm – the insulin signalling (IIS) and target of rapamycin (TOR) pathways.

Pathways are essentially signalling conduits used by the molecules inside cells to communicate with each other.

Past studies have shown altering IIS pathways yield a life span increase of 100 percent. For TOR pathways it was 50 percent. But when these scientists altered both these pathways simultaneously the age increase in worms came to be 500 percent. A violation of basic arithmetic of 100 plus 50 equals 150.

Jarod Rolins, the lead author of the study says “The synergistic extension is really wild. The effect isn’t one plus one equals two, it’s one plus one equals five. Our findings demonstrate that nothing in nature exists in a vacuum; in order to develop the most effective anti-ageing treatments we have to look at longevity networks rather than individual pathways.”

Having succeeded here doesn’t mean humans are going to get to live 500 years right now. But instead, it points to a possible reason for why no one yet has found a single gene that could improve human life span. Maybe the answer lies in altering multiple genes.

Hermann Haller, M.D., president of the MDI Biological Laboratory explains the present situation as such- “Despite the discovery in C. elegans of cellular pathways that govern ageing, it hasn’t been clear how these pathways interact. By helping to characterize these interactions, our scientists are paving the way for much-needed therapies to increase healthy lifespan for a rapidly ageing population.”

Here discovery of the new “synergistic interaction” is the characterisation Dr Haller is referring to. Jarod Rollins plans to focus his future research on improving our understanding of mitochondria’s role in human ageing. He hopes his research will enable us to develop  combination-therapies to help humans live to otherwise unimaginable ages.

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