"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us [extraterrestrials], to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken." -- Genesis 3:22-23
Rawen, W., Experimental “Gene Switch” Increases Lifespan With No Ill Effects, UCSF News, Oct 2002
By experimentally switching genes off or on at specific stages in an animal’s lifecycle, UCSF scientists have discovered that vigor and lifespan can be significantly extended with no side effects. Many researchers believe that increasing lifespan will dampen reproduction. But the new study of the tiny roundworm commonly known as C. elegans shows that silencing a key gene only in adulthood increases longevity with no effect on reproduction.Perlman, D., Worm's Life Extended Sixfold, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct 2003
A UC San Francisco scientist seeking to understand the mysteries of aging has altered the genetics of a nearly microscopic worm to keep it alive and thriving for more than six times its normal lifespan.Highfield, R., Scientists Find the Elixir of Eternal Life - In A Worm, Telegraph, May 2007
Earlier experiments by noted molecular biologist Cynthia Kenyon and her colleagues had doubled and quadrupled the life spans of the primitive roundworm called Caenorhabiditis elegans by lowering the activity of a single gene, known as daf-2.
The seemingly far-fetched day when all of us could extend our life spans by up to 30 years simply by taking a pill has moved a step closer, with the discovery of a "longevity gene" in the humble worm.Harran, B., Secrets of the 'Immortal Worms', BBC, Mar 2008
The small waterway behind Nottingham's Queens Medical Centre looks unspectacular, but may help unlock the secret to increasing human lifespans.Stimulating 'Worm Gene' Could Help Repair Spinal Injuries, Daily Mail, Jan 2009
Scientist Aziz Aboobaker and fellow researchers use the outlet as a source of planaria (flatworms).
They say the worms are helping us understand stem cells and leading to advances in human medicine.
The planaria are special because they have a high proportion of adult stem cells, with Dr Aboobaker nicknaming them "immortal worms".
He says: "The coolest thing is that we can take a worm in the lab, chop its head off, and within seven days the worm has grown a whole new brain.
A gene that regenerates nerves in worms could be used in the same way to repair damaged cells in humans, researchers said today.Curran, S.P., et al., A Soma-to-Germline Transformation in Long-Lived Caenorhabditis Elegans Mutants, Nature, 459, Pages 1079-1084, Jun 2009
They hope their work could one day help people with spinal cord injuries.
The gene called dlk-1, is part of a network of four genes that exist in worms and humans and are essential for nerve repair.
'We found a pathway that not only regenerates nerves in the worm, but also exists in humans, and we think it serves the same purpose,' study author Dr Michael Bastiani of the University of Utah said.
Unlike the soma, which ages during the lifespan of multicellular organisms, the germ line traces an essentially immortal lineage. Genomic instability in somatic cells increases with age, and this decline in somatic maintenance might be regulated to facilitate resource reallocation towards reproduction at the expense of cellular senescence. Here we show that Caenorhabditis elegans mutants with increased longevity exhibit a soma-to-germline transformation of gene expression programs normally limited to the germ line. Decreased insulin-like signalling causes the somatic misexpression of the germline-limited pie-1 and pgl family of genes in intestinal and ectodermal tissues. The forkhead boxO1A (FOXO) transcription factor DAF-16, the major transcriptional effector of insulin-like signalling, regulates pie-1 expression by directly binding to the pie-1 promoter. The somatic tissues of insulin-like mutants are more germline-like and protected from genotoxic stress. Gene inactivation of components of the cytosolic chaperonin complex that induce increased longevity also causes somatic misexpression of PGL-1. These results indicate that the acquisition of germline characteristics by the somatic cells of C. elegans mutants with increased longevity contributes to their increased health and survival.Wade, N., In Worms Genetic Clues to Extending Longevity, The New York Times, Jun 2009
People die, but one part of them, at least in principle, is immortal. In the germline cells that produce eggs or sperm, biological time stands still. This is why babies are all born with the same age, the clock set to zero, regardless of the age of their parents.McGreevy, S., Researchers Learn How Mutations Extend Life Span, Harvard Science, Jun 2009
A little piece of the germline’s immortality, it now seems, can be acquired by the ordinary cells of the body, and used to give the organism extra longevity.
This is the conclusion of a research group at the Massachusetts General Hospital led by Sean P. Curran and Gary Ruvkun. Their studies were carried out in the laboratory round worm, C. elegans, but many of the discoveries later turned out to apply to people, too.
The finding may provide an explanation for the many recent experiments in which biologists have made laboratory organisms live longer by manipulating their genes. Most of these genes lie in what is known as the insulin-signaling pathway, which influences the body’s metabolism of fat and glucose.
When the pathway is disturbed, by deactivating one of its genes, the animal generally lives longer. The effect seems similar to the extension of life span enjoyed by laboratory mice when they are kept on a diet very low in calories.
Now, in a dramatic finding, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Molecular Biology have found that certain genetic mutations known to extend the life span of the C. elegans roundworm induce “mortal” somatic cells to express some of the genes that allow the “immortality” of reproductive germline cells. Their report will appear in the journal Nature and is receiving advance online release.