Can we finally turn back time?
The question whether eternal life will ever be possible has long consumed people, and new worm research is hoping to prove that while we may not live forever, slowing down the process of internal ageing could be a real possibility.
Led by Professor Richard Morimoto, the team conducted their research on the transparent roundworm C. Elegans. These worms are often used in biology and ageing studies as they have a similar biochemical environment to people.
It was found that adult cells in the worms began their downhill slide after reaching reproductive maturity. A genetic switch then begins shutting down some processes which protect cells. This happened eight hours into adulthood for the worm, with Professor Morimoto discovering it’s the germline stem cells responsible for making eggs and sperm that control the switch.
The same switch can be found in humans.
One of the main revelations of the study was being able to identify this switch, proving that there is a start period of ageing and that it’s not a slow process of random events like previously thought.
The results have been published in journal Molecular Cell, with Professor Morimoto outlining just what this could mean for the ageing process in humans, including slowing down diseases.
“Wouldn't it be better for society if people could be healthy and productive for a longer period during their lifetime?
“I am very interested in keeping the quality control systems optimal as long as we can, and now we have a target,” he said.
“Our findings suggest there should be a way to turn this genetic switch back on and protect our ageing cells by increasing their ability to resist stress.”