Over 10 years of research has led scientists to discover that removing these specific age-related genes can increase lifespan.
A decade-long effort of tweaking yeast genomes has led scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the University of Washington to discover 238 age-related genes which, when removed, extend the lifespan of yeast by a massive 60 percent. Many of the genes and genetic pathways involved in the research are also found in humans, so there’s a promising possibility that this genetic editing could be replicated in us.
The study was tedious, to say the least — researchers sifted through nearly 4,700 different yeast strains, each of which had a single gene deletion. They monitored and counted the cells in each strain to determine which ones affected the aging process, focusing particularly on how many daughter cells could be produced by mitosis, or division in the mother cells.
The researchers found that, if any of those specific 238 age-related genes were removed, the mother cells underwent an increased number of cell divisions. Scientists previously knew that some of these genes were associated with longevity, but amazingly, this study unearthed 198 more — compiling the most comprehensive list yet.
While yeast isn’t necessarily the best topic of discussion to bring up at parties, there’s a lot we can learn from the basic organism (other than the fact that it helps us make the beer we need for those parties). These genetic discoveries about yeast could potentially translate to age-combatting methods for our own species, as long as the right direction is taken.
“Almost half of the genes we found that affect aging are conserved in mammals,” Brian Kennedy, lead study author and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, said in a statement. “In theory, any of these factors could be therapeutic targets to extend lifespan. What we have to do now is figure out which ones are amenable to targeting.”
Gene editing bears exciting potential for discovering how to extend the human lifespan. There are already a number of intriguing studies on how to increase longevity, like testing whether young blood can regenerate old brains or if the elixir of life has been hiding in ancient bacteria in Siberia. Biotechnologists in Silicon Valley also believe that humans will soon live longer than 120 years, and that the first person who will live past 1,000 is already alive today.
The prospects are exhilarating because, in our lifetimes, we could see the average human lifespan skyrocket courtesy of the innovative developments made in science, technology, and engineering.