Longer, healthier lives for mice

6 October 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

mouse.jpgScientists have extended the lifespan of mice by manipulating their genomes.

The team found that by genetically blocking the production of a protein called S6 Kinase 1 (S6K1) in mice, they could extend their lifespan by up to a fifth. These findings centre around previous research, which has shown that a reduction in calorie intake by around a third for rats, mice, and primates, can extend their lifespan by up to 40%.

S6K1 is involved in the body’s response to changes in food intake, therefore by blocking S6K1 the researchers found they could achieve similar results to calorie restriction, without reducing food intake. Genetically altered female mice lived for a total of 950 days, over 160 days (or one fifth) longer than their normal counterparts. At age 600 days (the equivalent of middle age in humans), they were leaner, had stronger bones, demonstrated better senses and cognition, performed better at motor tasks, and were protected from type 2 diabetes.

Male mice showed little difference in lifespan, but demonstrated some of the health benefits, including less resistance to insulin. From research that began in worm models, studies such as this one in mice have provided targets for drug therapy. The next step is to test drugs involved in this process to see if they can slow the aging process.