At first glance, the Caenorhabditis elegans have nothing in common with our Homo sapiens. These internal worms are only about a millimeter long and must be viewed through a microscope to see them.
But hidden deep inside the genome, C. Elegans is sharing many genetic data like humans, including the genes that cause aging. Recently, a team of scientists from China and the United States found two cell pathways derived from these genes, and they altered them to extend the life span of C. Elegans worm by 500%.
Coincidentally, the two gene codes we are talking about here are IIS and TOR also appearing on humans. Is this an opportunity to allow us to 5 times our lifespan? Will gene editing techniques like CRISPR help a first person live to be 500?
By editing two genes in a worm, scientists increased their life expectancy by 500%
C. Elegans is a soil-dwelling organism that thrives most strongly under decaying humus. Sharing many genes with humans and surviving only an average of 3-4 weeks, these nematodes are often used for genetic intervention experiments to impact longevity.
In the latest research conducted by the MDI Laboratory of Buck Institute for Aging Research and Nanjing University of China, the scientists discovered that two genes of C. Elegans, IIS and TOR were identified. preserved during evolution and transmitted to the human race.
Research co-authors, Dr. Jarod A. Rollins and Dr. and Aric N. Rogers, said that IIS is a gene that allows organisms to respond to environmental factors, such as food intake, to regulate coordinate a sub-cellular response between different tissues of the organism.
IIS also bears the responsibility of signaling insulin. When targeted and edited using CRISPR technology, the C. Elegans IIS mutant nematode worms increased their lifespan by 100%.
Meanwhile, TOR is also a nutritional sensor gene that allows cells to respond to changes in food intake. The pathway and mechanism of action of TOR is even more ancient than hormone signals.
The researchers say this gene is an essential gene in the evolution of unicellular to multicellular species. When manipulated alone, the TOR can help an organism increase its lifespan by 30%.
However, the surprise they received in the study was that manipulating the two genes IIS and TOR at the same time did not give the 1 + 1 = 2 effect. By reducing the activity of both genes, the C. Elegans nematode stopped the growth response and went into a maintenance state.
This increased their lifespan by 5 times, 500% compared to the 100% and 30% that individual gene modifications achieved. This effect is called the synergistic effect by scientists.
Deep within the genome, C. Elegans is sharing many genetic data similar to humans, including the genes that cause aging.
Dr. Rollins said: “The life-enhancing results from the synergistic effect are impressive. The effect is not one plus one equals two, but one plus one equals five. Our findings demonstrate that nothing in nature exists individually. To develop the most effective anti-aging methods, we have to consider networks instead of independent paths leading to a longer life span. “
So, the question now is whether we can apply the same thing to people to achieve the same results. In fact, the C. Elegans nematode shares many of the same genes and genetic pathways as we do, including IIS and TOR.
With studies up to this point, scientists believe our longevity is fixed within our mitochondria. Mitochondria are the organelle responsible for converting the energy supplied to the cell and its disturbances are related to aging.
Along with this hypothesis, new research has helped explain why scientists cannot find a single gene that will help us live a long and healthy life.
Dr Pankaj Kapahi, co-author from Buck Aging Research Institute, said: “The discovery of synergistic interaction [giữa hai gen IIS và TOR] can lead to combination therapies, each of which affects a pathway [lão hóa] to lengthen human life the same way we are using combination therapies to treat cancer and HIV. “
With the current results, the researchers think that we can fully think of a future in which people can extend their life by 5 times. “Definitely possible, there are many examples in nature that show that organisms live a long time“, they say. “However, the real focus of this field is to help people live as healthily as possible, for as long as possible by preventing the health-related decline associated with aging.”
That means long life itself is not a top priority for the foreseeable future, what scientists are concerned about here is to increase the healthy living time in life.
Dr. Jarod A. Rollins, research author from MDI Biological Laboratory.
“The refinement of similar genes in humans with existing drugs or other treatments may not extend human life by another 500% [ngay lập tức], but it can produce a similar type of synergistic reaction when both gene paths are targeted simultaneously“, Dr. Rollins and Rogers explained.
“By analyzing the characteristics of these interactions, our scientists are paving the way for the utmost therapies necessary to increase the healthy life expectancy of our rapidly aging population. “
Currently, many countries are facing an aging population and rising medical costs. This is the time when we should all seriously combine preventive medicine on a large scale to reduce the prevalence and severity of aging-related diseases.
Their new research has just been published in the journal Cell Report.