Israeli-led team of scientists discovers longevity gene

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A team of Israeli and U.S. scientists has discovered a gene that increases longevity in mammals.

The team, led by Dr. Haim Cohen of Bar-Ilan University’s Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, and including researchers from Hadassah Medical Center, the Hebrew University and Carnegie Mellon University, said the discovery increases the likelihood that similar activity can be found in a human gene. The results were published this week in the scientific journal Nature.

A gene from the Sirtuin family, SIR2, when activated by a low-calorie diet, was found to prolong life, according to a news release from Bar Ilan University.

Cohen and his team fed two groups of mice a high-fat diet containing 60 percent more fat calories than average. The mice with the SIR2 gene removed developed the diseases associated with aging, while the other mice remained healthy.

Preservation of the SIR2 family of genes during evolution indicates the importance of the genes in critical life processes. In each organism in which SIR2 has been found, including yeast and worms, the gene regulates lifespan, but this was yet to be proven in mammals. Last year, scientific literature carried many reports on the extent of the SIR2 gene’s involvement in the lifespan. More than 30 research groups debated the issue in the pages of Nature and another leading scientific journal, Science, but no final conclusion was reached.

 

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