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Biotech Medicine Science

Cellular Compound May Increase Lifespan Without the Need For Strict Dieting 66

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Every day, our cells manufacture small amounts of a molecule that, in higher doses, might be the key to leading a longer, healthier life. A team of researchers has found that this molecule boosts the lifespan of worms by more than 50%, raising the possibility that it will increase human longevity. Dietary supplements that contain the molecule and allegedly build muscle are already on the market. The study drops a barbell on their use, however, by suggesting that the molecule may actually thwart muscle growth."
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Cellular Compound May Increase Lifespan Without the Need For Strict Dieting

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  • which (Score:5, Interesting)

    by faldore ( 221970 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @07:41PM (#47004865)

    which dietary supplements contain the molecule?

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @07:56PM (#47004963)

    Humans live insanely long lives for mammals: twice the average. The average mammal lives a billion heartbeats, humans live two billion. "Heartbeats" are a convenient normalization that accounts pretty well for differences in size, etc.

    There are fairly plausible evolutionary reasons for this. Grandparents are the primary mechanism by which culture is transmitted, so if your grandparents (or the grandparents of your close kin) lived a long time you would have a better chance of reproducing yourself, assuming cultural knowledge is useful in your local environment. And people with long-lived grandparents tend to be long-lived themselves, so the trait gets selected for.

    As such, animal models for human aging are extremely hard to come by, and ones as distant as worms are very unlikely to produce results that are generalizable to humans. This is why so many things cure cancer in rats but have no effect on humans: rats will get cancer from a dirty look, so their cancers tend to be relatively easy to knock over. Cancers that survive all the clever molecular tricks humans throw at them are much harder nuts to crack.

    We don't even know if calorie restriction works in humans (not enough people have been starving themselves for long enough to tell) so this article is way, way out on a speculative limb. Good science, I'm sure, but the hook should be "Scientists learn something about metabolic control pathways" and not "You may live forever!"

  • by erice ( 13380 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @08:25PM (#47005127) Homepage

    From TFA:

    By studying the mitochondria from cow heart cells, the researchers found that -KG blocks ATP synthase, thus turning down the cell’s metabolism.

    Funny. You know what happens when you turn a cell's metabolism? It burns few calories. If you don't reduce calorie intake you get fat and suffer from a variety of obesity related illness that might kill you earlier than if you had not started taking the medication.

    So in exchange for a possibly longer life you get to eat little and do little. Surprise, surprise! That is just like Calorie Restriction, albeit without the consistency requirement. That means you might actually achieve some benefit for the sacrifice rather than making the sacrifice, not getting it quite right, and getting no benefit.

    Still, this doesn't sound like the fountain of youth. More like a prolonged living death.

  • by Eris13 ( 647245 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @08:54PM (#47005323)
    Not so. Nematodes are used because they have a very fast life cycle and you can study multiple generations. Perfect for mitochondrial studies such as this and mitochondria are pretty much mitochondria no matter the species.

    The summary is bad because its a c&p of TOA summary which seems to be just a pulp piece on various ageing research topics. That's not what the original paper was about. The original paper in Nature was kinda cool in itself. Simple summary - Nematodes lasted 70% longer when fed a ton of ÃZ±-KG. Some new areas to be studied, but nothing much to see here.
  • by Calavar ( 1587721 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:37PM (#47006151)
    Nematodes and certain flatworms that have their gonads removed can live for twice the normal lifespan. Do eunuchs live to be 150 years old? No? Then I don't think aging studies in worms translate very well to humans. This paper is an interesting bit of insight into cellular metabolic processes, but the main factors that drive aging (metabolism, sex hormones) in worms seem to be only secondary factors in human aging. TFS's claim that this might translate to humans in a tangible way is overblown. It's just another piece of a puzzle that has millions of parts.

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