Gene-editing could boost lifespan by 60%
• Method revives hopes for transplanting pig organs into people
•Designer animals with heart, livers, kidneys suitable to be transplanted into desperately ill people have come a step closer
Scientists may have discovered the secrets to longer life and addressing the global shortage of organs for transplantation. In fact, by tweaking the genes, scientists have come a step closer to humans who can live 60 percent longer and designer pigs with heart, livers and kidneys suitable to be transplanted into desperately ill people.
Indeed, the secret of extending life by decades may lie in switching off certain genes, scientists believe, after showing that small genetic tweaks can make organisms live 60 per cent longer.
Ten years of research by the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing and the University of Washington, United States, has identified 238 genes that, when silenced, increase the lifespan of yeast cells.
Many of the genes are present in mammals, including humans, suggesting that switching them off could dramatically increase lifespan.
The new study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Also, scientists have long dreamt of creating a steady supply of human organs for transplantation grown in pigs, but have struggled to tweak the creature’s Deoxy ribo-Nucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material to make it a good enough match.
Now, United States (US) researchers have made two key changes, which they say clear the path to the lifesaving transplants.
In a paper in Science, they describe using the CRISPR editing method in pig cells to destroy potentially harmful DNA sequences at 62 sites in the animal’s genome. It is the most extreme example to date of the precise yet widespread genetic changes possible through CRISPR. It is also raising hopes that the technology can finally render pig organs fit for human bodies—a goal that some of the paper’s authors are already pushing further with a private company.
Lead author of the first study, Dr. Brian Kennedy, said: “This study looks at aging in the context of the whole genome and gives us a more complete picture of what aging is.
“Almost half of the genes we found that affect aging are conserved in mammals.
“Our best results were single gene deletions that increased lifespan by around 60 per cent compared to normal yeast.
“In theory, any of these factors could be therapeutic targets to extend healthspan. What we have to do now is figure out which ones are amenable to targeting.”
To determine which genes were responsible for ageing, researchers examined 4,698 strains of yeast, each with a single gene deletion and then monitored how long cells lived for before they stopped dividing.
They found that deleting a gene called LOS1 produced particularly impressive results, extending life by 60 per cent. LOS1 is linked to a genetic master switch, which has long been associated with calorie restriction through fasting and increased lifespan.
“Calorie restriction has been known to extend lifespan for a long time,” added Kennedy.
Co-author Dr. Mark McCormick, of the Buck Institute said: “Our best results were single gene deletions that increased lifespan by around 60 per cent compared to normal yeast.”
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