Washington, February 9 : A mutation that increases that lifespan of tiny worms C. elegans ten-fold has been identified, say researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Professor Robert Shmookler Reis, who led the study leading to this discovery, has revealed that a mutant in the insulin/ insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) pathway of C. elegans makes them "super survivors".
While the adult lifespan of C. elegans is normally only two to three weeks, the researchers observed that half of the mutant worms in the study were still alive after six months, with some surviving to nine months.
"We knew we had found something amazing. These worms continue to look and act like normal worms of one-tenth their age," said Srinivas Ayyadevara, research assistant professor in the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.
During the past 15 years, over 80 mutations have been found that extend life in C. elegans.
Reis has, however, clarified that the latest findings should not be taken to mean that an 800-year human life span is just around the corner.
"Worms have a short lifespan to begin with, so it seems to be relatively easy to prod them to live longer. Other mutations, which extend the life of C. elegans up to 2.5-fold, give a much smaller benefit in mice," he said.
"The important thing is that we now have a pretty good idea of what we should try in order to increase mouse lifespan by 50 to 100 percent. We are on a path now that might lead to similar gains from a single genetic change or drug given to mice, and eventually to a treatment that could benefit humans," he added.
The findings have been reported in the journal Aging Cell.