Study: Biotech Mice With Two Moms (and No Dad) Live Longer

By Andrew Moseman | December 2, 2009 12:50 pm

mouseResearchers have long sought an answer to burning question of why women live longer on average then men (you know, other than the fact that, as Harry Belafonte puts it, “man smart, woman smarter“). Now a new study in Human Reproduction by Japanese researchers reinforces the argument that the fault lies in men’s genes, a conclusion they reached by taking males completely out of the picture.

They studied mice created with genetic material from two mothers, but no father. This was achieved by manipulating DNA in mouse eggs so the genes behaved like those in sperm [BBC News]. The scientists then implanted those sperm-behaving eggs into female mice, creating 13 “bimaternal” mice. On average, these fatherless mice lived a third longer than those conceived in the usual manner, according to study leader Tomohiro Kono.

Professor Kono said that the increased lifespans of the BM mice probably reflected the abnormal way in which their genomes were imprinted, because they had no DNA of male origin. This suggests that certain imprinted genes from the father’s sperm may suppress lifespan, perhaps while also increasing body size [The Times]. The team pointed in particular to a single gene on chromosome 9 related to post-natal growth and the expression of genetic material from the father. It was suppressed in the bimaternal mice.

Though Kono’s team can’t say for sure whether the results are applicable to people, the study will probably get tossed on top the growing pile of things for which men are to blame. Or, one could just adopt the Zen attitude of British researcher Allan Pacey. “I think humans have a good innings on the whole and we should try and be content with that” [BBC News].

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Secrets of Longevity
DISCOVER: Is Cancer the Price of Longevity?
80beats: A Single Genetic Tweak Gives Mice Longer, Healthier Lives
80beats: DNA Swap Could Make Healthier Babies—With Three Genetic Parents

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Angie

    This seems to be a women-related topic I am pretty sure men are going to ignore, unless they are as charming as Belafonte, that is. We live in the 21st century and so most things are allowed nowadays. Therefore: This is your chance, ladies. If you wanna have babies that live forever, change your sexual orientation, or in other words: go for girls. I am straight myself, but articles of this kind make me assume I seem to have chosen to swim at the wrong shore.

  • Really Angie?

    I don’t think sexual orientation has anything to do this. The whole point of this article is that we can impregnate organisms without sexual intercourse. What kind of sex you prefer has no bearing and it seems like your using this as an excuse to end repressing your desires. What we’re doing is taking the sex out of reproduction. Who you have sex with doesn’t have to be who you choose to combine code with.

  • Arki

    It is already bad to see so many people using their own language wrongly, when online I read “then” instead of “than” all the time and I wonder why they don’t correct themselves.
    English is not my first language, and this error looks really bad to me.
    I wouldn’t expect from a science blog to have such grammatical mistake in its first paragraph.
    A typo can happen, but this is something else.

  • Eat a Peach

    Angie, I am a man who’d like to add a year, a day, a breath to my life. I wish some women wouldn’t generalize the male response to important issues. After all, most of us were raised by women to be good men.

    Arki, don’t throw stones when you have bad grammar.

  • Don

    One of the most hurtful things that children can say to their stepfathers is “you’re not my father!” Now, all men can have the privilege of being “genetic stepfathers.” We can have the pleasure of hearing, “you’re not my father. I don’t have a father!”

    Well, it’s hard enough for some men to support their own children. Good luck getting them to support someone else’s “combined code.”

    Furthermore, I think that there may be some benefits to having “sex and reproduction go together” beyond the obvious ones. Some studies show that men and women seem to be more attracted to mates who are genetically diverse from themselves. This dimension will be lost in the test tube. Sometimes, the old ways are better.

  • Robert Synnott

    “Well, it’s hard enough for some men to support their own children. Good luck getting them to support someone else’s “combined code.””

    Shockingly, in these terrifying modern times, WOMEN are allowed to work, and support a family. Why, they’re even allowed VOTE!

    I assume you haven’t been paying attention for the last century or so.

  • Don

    Hey, Rob, if I say something that can be interpreted in two ways, and one of them makes you feel bad, then I meant it the other way. Okay?

    If you have been paying attention, you will notice that a father is expected to contribute in the support of his children regardless of how much the mother earns. It doesn’t matter if the parents are no longer in a relationship. It may not matter if the child is not his. Shocking, I know.

    Of course, women are free to make many different choices, but so are men. A man is free to decide whether or not to get in or stay in a relationship where his mate decides not to “mate” with him. Where she says “I want to have children, but not with you!” Where her attitude is “My genes are okay, but your gene pool could use some chlorine.”

    Not many men would volunteer, unless they don’t want children, or are sterile, or they don’t mind the risk of paying child support when the mother decides that she has no use for the rest of him either.

    Life is far more messy than the laboratory.

  • Bystander

    So it’s true that the world could go on if all the males died out. TAKE THAT GOD!! lol, jk (sort of). But really, I’ve read about things similiar to this before and it still impresses and amazes me. I don’t understand why you guys are getting all worked up about parental roles; in our sex driven (US) culture it’s a rare thing to have a couple with a child that belongs to both. You should be less concerned about how the child is concieved and more interested in how it’s raised, imo.

  • don2

    oh no there is no need of men for survival and balancing of nature

  • Don

    Actually, the original point that I was trying to make is that fathers do have an important role in raising children beyond the biological. The gleeful tone of this article is similar to others that talk about the eventual demise of the male gender.

    Remember the old chestnut that said that the Y chromosome would degrade and eventually disappear. Those who made these claims are retreating because it seems that the Y chromosome still has a few tricks up its metaphorical sleeve. Unfortunately for the doomsayers, it also seems that men will still be around for a little while longer fathering and raising children.

    Bi-maternal fertilization would only be of use to couples who are naturally infertile, or those who are interested in designing a race of long-lived, female hobbits (because of the implied trade off between genes promoting longevity and those promoting growth).

    Fortunately, I have yet to see the article that says that embryonic stem cell research, coupled with hormonal therapy, will spell the doom of motherhood because it would allow men to conceive, carry and deliver children by cesarean section without any help from women at all. This type of article would be counter to the script of what usually gets written. But if there is such an article, don’t tell my wife. She might get ideas.

    And I think that if there were no sex in reproduction and if we all had to wait until we could afford to pay for genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization to have children, mankind WOULD be extinct.

    I know. Some of you are thinking that this would be a good thing.

  • Mike

    I’ll be happy when the current extraordinarily shallow version of feminism comes to an end.

  • mike

    did they mention the sex of the combined mine? one could only guess that they would be only female.. and with no males we get rid of all mice and men. EXTINCTION..


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