Using a 'lifespan machine', researchers have discovered that in C. elegans aging is a systemic process, and that one change can have knock on effects on the entire system
Scientists may once have hoped we'd stumble across a singular cause of the aging process, but research has shown aging is far more complicated than we'd hoped. While it's likely we'll need to hit many targets to have a significant effect, each individual component may be more influential than we thought. Research is suggesting tackling one may impact on many nodes at the same time, elongating survival curves.
The lifespan machine
To study the aging process in C. elegans a team at Harvard Medical school developed this 'lifespan machine', comprised of 50 scanners which recorded over 30,000 worms over time. After setting the system up, they began to make interventions on specific populations, including altering temperature, oxidative stress, signalling and making various genetic manipulations.
After collecting the data to produce lifespan distribution curves, the team discovered all of the curves displayed a level of temporal scaling. Even if certain intervention quickened or delayed more than others, all of the interventions produced a similar statistical effect.
"Life span is a whole-organism property,and it is profoundly difficult to study it molecularly in real time. But by discovering this kind of statistical regularity about the endpoint of aging, we have learned something about the aging process that determines that endpoint"
What does this mean?
Although the data suggests there are many underlying factors driving the aging process, a single intervention was able to extend lifespan duration in these model organisms. Although humans are obviously very different, the results are important because they suggest that aging is interdependent, and can potentially be delayed by a knock on effect. One alteration was able to extend the clock in many other nodes too, and prolong overall survival.
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