LIFESPAN Hormone in mice has potential to slow aging process
Though not an anti-aging potion, it could improve the lives of older people.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
DALLAS -- Scientists have identified an anti-aging hormone in mice that could one day help explain what governs the human life span.
Scientists in the United States and Japan described the hormone and the mice -- which can live to the ripe old age of 3, about a year longer than the average mouse -- in a report released online this week by the journal Science.
The findings are exciting because they support a well-documented method to slow aging in other animal species, said George Martin, a pathologist at the University of Washington who commented on the work.
"It's further evidence that there's a mechanism that's modulating life span that works throughout the living world," Martin said. "And it might even apply to us."
What it won't do
Researchers are quick to warn that the hormone will not translate into an anti-aging potion. Instead, it potentially could be useful in slowing the decline in particular tissues such as bones or the brain, thus improving the lives of the elderly.
"I'm not very positive about using it to extend life span," said Makoto Kuro-o. He is the molecular biologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas who led the study. "But it might be useful in treatment of age-related disease."
Scientists began to focus on the naturally occurring hormone several years ago. Kuro-o, then working in Japan, was studying a breed of mice that aged quickly. The accelerated aging was eventually attributed to a defect in a gene that the scientists named Klotho, after the mythical Greek goddess said to spin the thread of life.
Kuro-o reasoned that if a defect in the Klotho gene sped up aging, upping the gene's activity through genetic engineering might lengthen life.
His hunch was correct. Instead of living a normal two years, the genetically engineered mice typically lived 2 1/2 years.