Will we one day be able to disable the ageing process? It sounds like an impossible goal, but scientists from Northwestern University in the US have found a way to turn off the ‘genetic switch’ that causes us to get older – in worms at least. While it won’t give us the keys to immortality just yet, the discovery could lead to new ways of making us more productive and active in the latter years of our lives.
According to the study, this genetic switch is automatically flipped when a worm reaches reproductive maturity. Stress responses that originally protect its cells by keeping vital proteins folded and functional are switched off at this point, and the ageing process begins in earnest – with the switch disabled, the cells kept up their earlier level of resistance, making the worm better able to handle the wear and tear of growing older.
It’s a big jump from worms to human beings of course, but the two researchers behind these experiments say there are enough common biological links to suggest that the same technique could be applied to other animals. The key moment is associated with reproduction, because it’s at this point that the future of the species has been guaranteed – once the next generation is born, the current generation can get out of the way. Source: Immortality is one step closer as scientists turn off the ageing process in worms