Researchers have identified 23 new longevity genes by screening the genome of Caenorhabditis elegans, a small worm that is used as a model organism in genetics studies. The findings are reported in the inaugural issue of PLoS Genetics.
Each of the 23 genes somehow normally acts to reduce longevity, whereas inhibiting any one of them increases lifespan. For example, the worm's lifespan doubles when one gene is prohibited from working properly, and inhibition of another gene increases the length of life by 20%.
The genes discovered affect a wide variety of activities, including insulin signaling, metabolism, and dietary regulation. Genes involved in insulin signaling are particularly interesting because corresponding human genes could potentially play a role in diabetes and cancer, according to senior author Cynthia Kenyon, of the University of California, San Francisco, and her coauthors.