A Single Genetic Tweak Gives Mice Longer, Healthier Lives

By Eliza Strickland | October 2, 2009 10:41 am

mouseBy deleting a single gene from a mouse’s genetic makeup, researchers have created a mighty mouse with a longer, healthier life. The change mimicked the effect of keeping the mice on a calorie-restricted diet. Severely restricting the diets of yeast, bacteria, mice and primates have granted these animals unnaturally long lives. For humans, however, maintaining a diet of near starvation would be difficult at best [Discovery News]. That’s why researchers are actively pursuing drugs that could produce the same anti-aging effect.

Study coauthor Dominic Withers says the effect was striking–but for reasons not yet understood, only the female mice benefited. The mice didn’t just live longer, they also had fewer age-related ailments. “These mice were resistant to type 2 diabetes … and they also appeared to have reduced incidence of the mouse-equivalent of osteoporosis — so they had stronger bones,” Withers said. Balance, strength and coordination all improved in the [female] mice, and they were more inquisitive, suggesting their brains were healthier [Reuters].

In the study, published in Science, the researchers bred mice that had one gene disabled, the gene that produces the protein S6 kinase 1 (S6K1), which is involved in regulating the body’s metabolism. Female mice lacking S6K1 lived an average of 950 days, over 160 days (or 20 percent) longer than the control group. For humans, that would be like adding 16 additional years of life [Discovery News].

It’s still not clear how the genetic change, or calorie restriction for that matter, extend lifespans. But even though the underlying mechanism isn’t understood, researchers are clearly zeroing in on an effective biochemical pathway. In July, a separate group of researchers found that a drug  used to suppress the immune system extended the lifespans of middle-aged mice dramatically; that drug targeted a number of proteins including S6K1.

Related Content:
80beats: Low-Calorie Diet Staves off Aging & Death in Monkeys
80beats: Immunosuppressant Drug Extends Lifespan of Elderly Mice
80beats: Cutting Calories Drastically Could Boost Senior Citizens’ Memory
DISCOVER: Longevity: could a pill that controls appetite give people longer lives?

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • andre

    I wonder if they extend this study if those increases would continue through generations or if S6K1 plays a part in fertility. It may not play a positive role in the lifespan of the individual, but what about the continuation of the species? Do scientists continue these kind of studies past the first generation of experimental mice?

  • Jumblepudding

    Sad how only the females benefitted. It is often said that testosterone is toxic.

  • blah

    Screw Kurzweil

  • http://bulgariantraveling.com/m/2/princess website

    No thanks… Lifes not really working out for me so well. Im not interested. Somebody else can have mine. Death may be the only way I can escape you f***ers.

    [Moderator’s note: edited for profanity.]

  • Ye Gads

    Great. Just what we need. A race of SUPER MICE.

  • Tim

    Yes, finally! The Happy Sappy Children of Many Lands ride! Where cheering music will spread the message that a mouse should rule the world!

  • Susanne McKenzie

    In reply to jumblepudding I must point out. There is no evidence of toxicity pertaining to resveratrol. What do you mean when you say “it is often said”? By whom, in what publication, do you have a reference? I am the directory of pharmacology with Biotivia, a leading manufacturer of resveratrol. We have been collaborating with scientists at major university research centers and medical schools for over 4 years and have proven the safety of our Transmax and Bioforte resveratrol supplements to the health authorities in the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, and many others. Any supposed toxicity related to a resveratrol supplement could only happen if the product contained contaminants due to improper processing. We process in US FDA CGMP certified facilities as should all resveratrol suppliers. You can check the Consumer Lab resveratrol evaluations if you are interested in which products were judged to be free of contaminants, what their potency is and what the cost per mg is.

  • Cougar Coupler

    Wow, maybe women can wrest more power away from the male dominated societies that have exploited them for thousands of years.

    Imagine if Palin or Pelosi had almost two more decades in them.. Well it is still a breakthrough. I’m sure Palin has had a lot in her already.

  • Petros Kasanovas

    So who is reaching to our nucleus and grabbing that s6k1 gene as his patent or w/e?

    >Wow, maybe women can wrest more power away from the male dominated societies that have exploited them for thousands of years.

    Women already live longer , Claiming that infinitely regardless what women need more empowerment is sexist and hopefully will get condemned harder and harder.

    When a source/way of making of germline stemcells in testes was discovered , a few feminists actually were pressuring to stop research… funny.

  • Nicholas

    The issue here is that this only applies to mice. Though it is credible that it could be applied to humans as well, we must look at the possible side-effects. I’m sure the S6K1 gene does something other than shorten one’s lifespan…

  • Cougar Coupler

    When this was a sustainable planet, we hunted and gathered for the vast majority of our time here. Work and power was split between the sexes, with males typically hunting and women typically gathering. Kinda hard to drag a toddler into a Mastadon fight, but you could strap the tyke on to find rooted plants.

    Once man developed horticulture, there was a surplus of grains and gathering became less necessary. Women lost status as they lost their contributory power in society.

    Since then women in ‘civilised society’ have been screwed. Cliterectomy, burkas and slavery carry on to this day.

    Being born female in the U.S. is like hitting the lottery compared to being born in many other countries. Even here women suffer in a society that condones strength over substance.

    An extra 15 years of life may give women a longer world view than the disasterous 5 year plan that has gotten our planet into this mess.

  • Dingo

    @Susanne McKenzie

    Didn’t jumblepudding say ‘testosterone’? I didn’t read anything about resveratrol.

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