London, June 17 (ANI): Researchers at Stanford Medical School have discovered that blocking the activity of certain proteins can extend the lives of roundworms by up to 30 percent - but only if the worms are fertile.
This is further confirmation of what many scientists had already suspected, which is that the key to life extension is tied to the reproductive system.
In particular, the researchers showed that the proteins are involved in epigenetics - a phenomenon in which chemical modifications to DNA and the proteins around it affect how it is packaged and expressed in a cell.
Although an organism can't change the DNA sequence of the genes it has inherited, epigenetic changes allow it to silence or tweak their expression in response to environmental or other external cues.
"We've shown here that an epigenetic change can affect the life span of an organism, but only within the context of an intact reproductive system," said Anne Brunet, assistant professor of genetics and senior author of the study.
The study has been published online June 16 in Nature. (ANI)