Living Longer

Will you live to 120?

Will you live to 120?

Somewhere among us is a 60-year-old woman who has just started drawing her pension. She has also applied for her bus pass, and in all likelihood renewed several subscriptions to fashion magazines. She has at least two children and several grandchildren. And here’s the good news: she’s only halfway through her life,... 


Look to the Greeks for a robust view of old age

Look to the Greeks for a robust view of old age

If one has acquired a lifetime’s cargo of books, one is liable to have to buy new copies of familiar texts, because one has no idea in which packing case one’s own copy is to be found. That is the drawback; the compensating advantage is that the books one did not even know one possessed float mysteriously to the surface,... 


Getting old will be more fun than most of us think

Getting old will be more fun than most of us think

THE common notion that Britain’s ageing population will create an intolerable burden on the NHS is a myth, an expert on health in old age said yesterday. Visions of a future in which people routinely lived into their nineties, but spent their extra years in the grip of dementia or other debilitating chronic illnesses,... 


Breaking the age barrier

Breaking the age barrier

Wonder pills for the middle-aged and other medical advances are extending healthy life as never before. Even people in their nineties can benefit. When Dorothy Newcombe fell ill with heart disease at the age of 92, her family thought she had reached the end of her natural lifespan. One of her seven grandchildren... 


The secret of longevity

The secret of longevity

The professoressa is a bit tired,” an adviser to Rita Levi-Montalcini warned me as I prepared to interview Italy’s Nobel prize-winning Life Senator on the eve of her 100th birthday. “Don’t wear her out.” I arrive to find the professoressa, as she is universally known, in the dress shop below her office... 


The women working into their nineties

The women working into their nineties

Honor Blackman, Diana Athill and others may have passed the typical retirement age, but they still have plenty to offer Honor Blackman, actress, 84 When I was young I hoped that I would be dead by 40, because I thought that was so old, but of course your ideas change. Age isn’t important — I meet lots of people... 


Men married to smart women live longer

Men married to smart women live longer

There is a lingering suspicion among girls (as the unpopularity of science subjects demonstrates) that boys don’t value cleverness as an essential quality in a life partner. Given a choice between gorgeous or brainy, there is no guarantee they’ll do the right thing, because men think they’re clever enough for... 


Brighter people live longer

Brighter people live longer

Greater intelligence may in part partially explain why people from a high socio-economic background live longer than those of lower social status, researchers have suggested. A study of former soldiers in the United States has indicated that differences in IQ may explain almost a quarter of the differences in mortality... 


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News on Keeping Young

Scientists find genetic secret of longer life

A gene that can lengthen an organism’s lifespan has been discovered for the first time in experiments on yeast, promising new insights into human ageing.Research in the US revealed that yeast strains with versions of a gene known as PNC1 live for up to 70 per cent longer than those with a different genetic configuration.

The findings, from a team at Harvard Medical School, suggest that PNC1 is the first genetic regulator of lifespan discovered. As similar genes probably exist in humans, scientists hope that it may one day be possible to manipulate or simulate them to extend life and protect health against the ravages of old age.

The PNC1 gene has its effect because it responds to environmental factors that are known to influence lifespan in many organisms.

Researchers have known for several years that restricting the food intake of yeast, fruit flies, worms and rats so that many fewer calories are consumed can significantly lengthen these organisms’ lives, and PNC1 appears to play a vital part in this process in yeast.

The gene is required if yeast is to derive any benefit from calorific restriction, according to the study led by David Sinclair, of Harvard Medical School. Strains with five copies of the gene generally live 70 per cent longer than wild strains, which have only one copy — the longest lifespan extension seen in yeast.

The results, details of which are published today in the journal Nature, show that lifespan is not determined solely by accumulated wear and tear on the body, or the rate of metabolism, as some researchers have suggested. Genetic factors are intimately involved as well, and these may explain whether and how environmental factors affect longevity.

“In contrast to the current model, we show that the lifespan extension from calorie restriction is the result of an active cellular defence involving the up-regulation of a single gene,” Dr Sinclair said.

Levels of the protein produced by PNC1 are also raised when yeast is exposed to high temperatures — another type of stressful environment that is known to prolong the organsim’s lifespan.

The research team, who conducted their experiments using a strain of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, are now investigating the human genome for genes that may play a similar role in longevity to PNC1. The picture, however, is almost certain to be far more complicated in humans, Dr Sinclair said.

The PNC1 protein has its effect in yeast by affecting levels of Sir2, another protein that helps cells to survive by keeping their DNA stable. PNC1 converts a vitamin called nicotinamide, which inhibits Sir2 production, into nicotinic acid, which does not have the same harmful effect and allows Sir2 levels to rise.

While yeast has only one Sir protein, Sir 2, humans have seven, meaning that the genetic levers that influence human ageing will be harder to understand and manipulate

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