Genetic Discovery on Health, Longevity
In a report published in Nature Communications,
a new genetic discovery by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School
of Medicine and UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh suggests that there may
be molecular switches that control lifespan and healthspan(mobility and immune
The researchers focused on a protein called TCER-1
in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. TCER-1 promotes longevity in worms and
also is critical to its fertility.
Longevity genes in many animals increase resistance to stressors, such as infection. The researchers expected that removing TCER-1 would make the worms less resilient.
But when infected with
bacteria, subjected to DNA-damaging radiation or high temperatures, worms
without TCER-1 survived much longer than normal worms, showed improved mobility
with age and were less prone to protein clumping that causes human
neurodegenerative diseases. During its reproductive age, TCER-1 tunes all the
molecular dials to ensure that the animal reproduces efficiently to propagate
the species, partly by diverting resources meant for stress management.