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mTOR

Deciphering Secrets of Longevity, from Worms

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Microscopic view of a glowing green worm

Caption: Long-lived worms show increased activation of DAF-16 (green), a protein linked with longevity in worms and humans.
Credit: Kapahi Lab, Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Novato, CA

How long would you want to live, if you could remain healthy? New clues from experiments done in microscopic worms suggest that science may have the potential to extend life spans dramatically.

Taking advantage of the power of the worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) as a model system for genetic studies, NIH-funded researchers at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, CA, decided to set about testing ways to extend the worms’ lifespan.


Less TOR Protein Extends Mouse Lifespan

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Mouse walking towards a fountainThe average life expectancy in the United States currently is about 79 [1]. And, unsurprisingly, more than two-thirds of Americans say they’d like to live another 10 to 20 years longer [2].

One possible route to a longer life is to cut calories drastically. Not much fun perhaps, but there’s evidence it works in yeast, worms, and mice—but probably not in monkeys [3]. The potential life-extending strategy that I’d like to tell you about today focuses on the drug rapamycin, which blocks the activity of a protein called “target of rapamycin,” or TOR. Recently, a team here at NIH discovered that—at least in mice—reducing production of this protein through genetic engineering can add about 20% to the lifespan [4].