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[Press release] Living longer, not healthier

Living longer, not healthier 

From the press release

New research by UMass Medical School suggests genes that extend lifespan won’t necessarily improve health in advanced age

By Jim Fessenden, UMass Medical School Communications
January 22, 2015

Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD
Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD

A study of long-lived mutant C. elegans by UMass Medical School scientists shows that the genetically altered worms spend a greater portion of their life in a frail state and exhibit less activity as they age then typical nematodes. These findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest genes that increase longevity may not significantly increase healthy lifespan and point to the need to measure health as part of aging studies going forward.

“Our study reveals that if we want to find the genes that help us remain physically active as we age, the genes that will allow us to play tennis when we’re 70 similar to when we were 40, we have to look beyond longevity as the sole criteria. We have to start looking at new genes that might play a part in ‘healthspan.’” said Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD, professor of molecular, cellular & cancer biology and the program in molecular medicine and principal investigator of the study.

Genomic and technological advances have allowed scientists to identify several groups of genes that control longevity in C. elegans, a nematode used as a model system for genetic studies in the lab, as well as in yeast and flies. These genes, when examined, have analogs in mammals. The underlying assumption by scientists has always been that extending lifespan would also increase the time spent by the organism in a healthy state. However, for various reasons, most studies only closely examine these model animals while they’re still relatively young and neglect to closely examine the latter portion of the animals’ lives.

Challenging the assumption that longevity and health are intrinsically connected, Dr. Tissenbaum and colleagues sought to investigate how healthy long-lived C. elegans mutants were as they aged.

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January 23, 2015 - Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , ,

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