Posted on Jul 28, 2008, 5 p.m.
By Donna Sorbello
Classic signs of ageing could be stopped or even reversed after a suggestion growing old may no longer be inevitable.
Scientists from Stanford University argue regulatory genes could determine when a body begins to break down, rather than the conventional view that ageing is caused by wear and tear.
Should they prove correct, future research may find a way of turning off the signals emanating from the genetic instructions thereby halting the sign of ageing.
Marc Tatar, from Brown University in Rhode Island said: "The message of this research is that ageing can be slowed and managed by manipulating signalling circuits within cells."
The researchers used examples of tortoises able to lay their eggs aged 100 or whales living until 200, despite the fact they use the same building blocks for their DNA, proteins and fats as humans, mice and nematode worms.
The chemistry of the wear-and-tear process should therefore be the same in all cells, which makes it difficult to explain why species have different life spans.
Studying the nematode worm, one of the most primitive living creatures, a millimetre long, with a maximum life span of two weeks, they found differences between young and old worms that did not match the conventional picture of ageing.
They were exposed to different stresses, thought to cause ageing, such as heat, radiation and disease but found the genes were not affected.
Instead key genetic mechanisms designed for youth had drifted off track in older animals.
One of the researchers, Professor Stuart Kim, a professor of developmental biology, said: "We found a normal developmental programme that works in young animals, but becomes unbalanced as the worm gets older.
"It accounts for the lion's share of molecular differences between young and old worms."
RESOURCE/SOURCE: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2457653/Science-could-halt-or-reverse-ageing.html on Friday, July 25, 2008.