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Longevity Gene Found 358

quixote9 writes "Calorie restriction while maintaining nutrient levels has long been known to dramatically increase life spans. Very different lab animals, from worms to mice, live up to 50% longer (or even more) on the restricted diets. However, so far, nobody has been able to figure out how this works. Scientists at the Salk Institute have found a specific gene in worms (there's a very similar one in people) that is directly involved in the longevity effect. That opens up the interesting possibility that doctors may someday be able to activate that gene directly and we can live long and prosper . . . without giving up chocolate."
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Longevity Gene Found

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  • Re:Earlier death (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fsiefken ( 912606 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @06:31AM (#18970001)
    actually that is not the case, calorie restriction (CR) makes you live longer with a positive impact on your health - including heart diseases. the only issue is the social and psychological impact such a restrictive diet has on your life. the alternative is going on an alternate day diet, or using these longlivety genes turn-on's, like resveratol. these have non of the problems - instant extra 30 years!
  • Re:OTOH (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dsanfte ( 443781 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @06:40AM (#18970053) Journal
    As long as there are gene sequencer machines on the market and people like me studying cell biology, don't worry, it'll be done in private residences. Switching on genes isn't so hard.
  • I find it strange (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mgns ( 934567 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @07:35AM (#18970351)
    that when confronted with the possibility of a greatly increased lifespan, say a hundred years extra, so few actually want it. Ask some people and watch their initial reaction. The ones I've queried have almost invariably argued that it would become boring.
    IMHO this stems from a belief that zest for life is NOT a biological effect, but rather a result of inexperience.

    People grow jaded with age, many even grown comfortable with their own mortality.

    I am inclined to believe that the biological decay of our bodies is a main cause of declining appetite for life.

  • they are also healthy and vibrant

    so your calorie restricted 90 year old is like your uncalorie restricted 60 year old

    in other words, you don't just extend lifespan, you extend the period of robust physical ability to continue working and earning a living

    in a hypothetical society where these longevity genes were activated somehow in a large segment of the population, it wouldn't be crazy to imagine retirement ages of 90 or 100
  • Tithonus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dargaud ( 518470 ) <> on Thursday May 03, 2007 @08:43AM (#18970873) Homepage

    having the body of a 150 year old who would normally have died 80 years ago for 100 years is quite another. So be careful what you wish for when you ask for longer lifespans. Make sure you read the fine print first
    That's the sad myth of Tithonus []
  • Re:OTOH (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pakar ( 813627 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:06AM (#18971079)
    Well, i think living longer would be good, if some limitations on offspring would be created, something like that each parent is allowed to have 1 child. = a couple can have 2 children.

    - Less money spent on education since the productive years of each person would be much longer, just think of what the pay would be for a *nix admin with 120 years of experience that still have 80 years left until retirement :)
    - Less money spent on caring for the elderly, since people would probably choose to end their life sooner since not everyone would want to be 300 years.
    - More time to save money for when you get old.
    - Less need for healthcare since people are 'younger' longer.
    - You could spend 30 years in school if you really wanted, or maybe go back to school once every 40 years if you are bored with your current line of work.
    - When you choose to get children you could have saved up enough money to stay at home with them until they move out, if you want.
    - Less rush on life.

    - A life-sentence would really be something then =)
    - Just hope that you only get 'old' just before you die.
    - Hope for a creative job. Don't even want to imagine a 100 years as a garbage-collector (or sanitation-worker if you want to be politically correct :)
    - I would guess it would result in a lot more divorces.. 200 years with the same girl... 200 years of shopping... GAAAH where's that poison-needle? =)

    So i think that this would be a good thing for almost everyone.
  • by sbruinsma ( 1096973 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:13AM (#18971187)
    Interesting study, but I'm always a bit leery of aging studies done in these worms (C. elegans), especially those which involve caloric restriction. Worms have the ability to follow an entirely different developmental path under certain conditions. Thus, normally, worms progress to adulthood and live a couple weeks. But if they are STARVED, at a young stage they shift into what is called a "dauer" state--they stop growing and can live for months and months. This is totally different than just living longer or stopping aging at a normal state--they are entering an entirely different developmental stage, which they normally would never see. Humans, of course, have no such developmental path. So with aging studies dealing with caloric restriction in worms, you have to wonder if they're studying something relevant to mammals, or if they are manipulating this worm-specific dauer pathway. It almost seems more likely to me that they would be affecting something to do with this dauer state. It will be interesting to see what happens when they follow up in mice.
  • Living longer would mean you need more money to support yourself in retirement, or that you need to delay retiring. The second point depends on what health state (and mental state) you're in at an older age.
    I'm already planning for retirement such that I will be able to live off the interest alone, and in such a way that I won't be living off all the interest (so that the interest will grow with cost-of-living adjustments). That way, it won't matter how long I live past retirement - the longer I live, the more money I will have to live off of. This of course is based on more than one assumption:
    • I assume that I will continue to get at least 8% annual return on my investments (on average).
    • I assume that COLAs will be no more than 2% per annum - or, more specifically, that the difference between my ROI and COLAs will be at least 6%.
    • I assume that my insurance will cover any drastic expenses that arise.
    In reality, any one of these assumptions could be violated, of course.
  • by Gospodin ( 547743 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:36AM (#18971483)

    Read this. []

  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:47AM (#18971619)
    As I understand it, those studies were done on rats. If you let a rat eat all it wants, the rat eat itelf to death in a very short time. That's where they got this calorie restriction idea.

    Thing is, rats that have a normal diet live as long as rats that have calorie restricted diet.

    Or, that's how I understand it.
  • Ha, ha, but ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bearpaw ( 13080 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:44AM (#18972451)
    A few years ago, for various reasons, I started eating much healthier. More whole grains, more fruits and veggies, much less preprocessed food, less fried food, etc, etc. I didn't go vegan or even just vegetarian, but I do eat less meat than I used to. (And I only eat red meat when I have an active craving for it.)

    You know what? Eating healthy takes a little more effort and attention, but it actually tastes a hell of a lot better.

    Just walking into a fast-food place now actually makes me a little nauseous. I know tastes vary -- hell, I used to love that stuff myself. But now it's, "Ye gods, how did I ever choke that crap down?"

    It's like using real maple syrup after being raised using Maple-Flavored Pancake Topping. "Oh, this is what that other stuff is pretending to be."

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @10:58AM (#18972695)
    The more land we turn into farmland, the more kids we have, that again will need to turn new land into farmland, or squeeze even more out of what is allready there to stay alive, and have more kids that needs more farmland... and so on, so forth...

    That would explain why the amount of land farmed in North America has been falling for decades, and the population would be stable or shrinking were it not for immigration, yes?

    The fact is that by the time I am old the "population crisis" will be under-population, not over-population, at least so long as religious nutjobs don't get their way. You see, regardless of what your faith tells you "just makes sense", the fact is that increasing the status of women, and increasing urban populations (which increases wealth while decreasing ecological footprint--the most environmentally friendly place to live in North America is downtown New York City) both result in large decreases in the birth rate.

    If you want to "enact population control" you only need advocate equal rights and strong legal protections for women, and increased urbanization. Those two things, which are happening at a great rate in places like India, will moderate human population growth within a few decades. I fully expect to be alive as part of the largest human cohort that has ever existed, and it will continue to be the largest for some centuries, until we start colonizing other planets in a serious way.
  • by CFTM ( 513264 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @12:25PM (#18974239)
    Population control would be impossible to create and maintain on a global scale; instead all we have to do is allow the natural course of supply and demand to naturally limit the population. The results WILL NOT be ideal and this mindset is somewhat callous but individual homo sapiens are meaningless on the scale of survival. As we are unable to support more people our populations will naturally be checked: diseases will run rampant, there will be massive clean water and food shortages which in turn will cause wars. All four of these things will check our population.

    Might we do a great deal of damage to the planet? Yep we sure will.
    Will the damage we do to the planet last forever? Not a chance in hell; if we manage to kill ourselves off some other species will slowly begin to take over for whatever reason. This is just how our planet works, get over it.

    Oh and don't you worry, Global Warming is going to help with population control too! I predict that there will be massive destablization in China/India within the next twenty years: partially due to global warming, partially due to over population and most of it having to do with the preference for male babies over female babies in these countries (I believe India has this same problem, please correct me if I'm wrong). As it stands today, a huge imbalance exists and this imbalance will have the greatest affect on the poorer parts of China. This is going to be a huge issue, if men can't find women there will be an amazing degree of unrest. We are really such simple's great :) []
  • by SpryGuy ( 206254 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @12:26PM (#18974263)
    True, but imagine the population going from slowly rising in this country to rapidly rising, due to a fall-off in death rates... here in the country where each individual makes a maximum impact on the enviornment, towards energy usage, and towards waste production.

    Of course it'll level off after everyone gets the treatment, but the new established 'level' will be higher than it otherwise would be.

    I still think the emphasis should be on living better, not living longer. Do we really want the retirement age to go up to 85 or beyond? Oy. I think there would be a lot of social changes and accomodations that would be required as well. Let's not even talk about social security or anything like that, as that gets REALLY messy.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982