By tweaking a few key genes in the DNA of a roundworm, scientists have extended the animal’s life span by about 500%.
That’s a huge jump in life: An average roundworm lives for about three to four weeks. But when unencumbered of two specific genes — DAF-2 and RSKS-1 — the creatures can survive for several months.
Scientists had linked these genes to longevity years ago, noting an increase in the life span of worms and other creatures when these genes are switched off. However, the exact role of the genes in the aging process remained a mystery.
Now, researchers have connected the dots between these two genes and mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses that fuel cell function throughout the body. Mitochondria begin to malfunction as an organism ages, but silencing DAF-2 and RSKS-1 seems to delay this damage and extend life span — at least in roundworms, according to a study published in 2019 in the journal Cell Press.