Single gene change increases mouse lifespan by 20 percent

August 29, 2013

By lowering the expression of a single gene, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have extended the average lifespan of a group of mice by about 20 percent—the equivalent of raising the average human lifespan by 16 years, from 79 to 95. The research team targeted a gene called mTOR, which is involved in metabolism and energy balance, and may be connected with the increased lifespan associated with caloric restriction.

A detailed study of these revealed that gene-influenced extension did not affect every tissue and organ the same way. For example, the mice retained better memory and balance as they aged, but their bones deteriorated more quickly than normal.

This study appears in the Aug. 29 edition of Cell Reports.

"While the high extension in lifespan is noteworthy, this study reinforces an important facet of aging; it is not uniform," said lead researcher Toren Finkel, M.D., Ph.D., at NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). "Rather, similar to circadian rhythms, an animal might have several organ-specific aging clocks that generally work together to govern the aging of the whole organism."

Finkel, who heads the NHLBI's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the Division of Intramural Research, noted that these results may help guide therapies for aging-related diseases that target specific organs, like Alzheimer's. However, further studies in these mice as well as are needed to identify exactly how aging in these different tissues is connected at the molecular level.

The researchers engineered mice that produce about 25 percent of the normal amount of the mTOR protein, or about the minimum needed for survival. The engineered mTOR mice were a bit smaller than average, but they otherwise appeared normal.

The median lifespan for the mTOR mice was 28.0 months for males and 31.5 months for females, compared to 22.9 months and 26.5 months for normal , respectively. The mTOR mice also had a longer maximal lifespan; seven of the eight longest-lived mice in this study were mTOR mice. This lifespan increase is one of the largest observed in mice so far.

While the genetically modified mTOR mice aged better overall, they showed only selective improvement in specific organs. They generally outperformed normal mice of equivalent age in maze and balance tests, indicating better retention of memory and coordination. Older mTOR mice also retained more muscle strength and posture. However, mTOR mice had a greater loss in bone volume as they aged, and they were more susceptible to infections at old age, suggesting a loss of immune function.

In addition to the NHLBI, this study was carried out by intramural researchers at the NIH's National Cancer Institute; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and National Institute on Aging.

Explore further: A lifespan-extending drug has limited effects on aging

Related Stories

A lifespan-extending drug has limited effects on aging

July 25, 2013
The immunosuppressive drug rapamycin has been shown to increase longevity in mice even when treatment begins at an advanced age. It is unclear if the extension of life also correlates with prolonged health and vigor.

Reducing caloric intake delays nerve cell loss

May 21, 2013
Activating an enzyme known to play a role in the anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction delays the loss of brain cells and preserves cognitive function in mice, according to a study published in the May 22 issue of The ...

Lifespan-extending drug given late in life reverses age-related heart disease in mice

June 10, 2013
Elderly mice suffering from age-related heart disease saw a significant improvement in cardiac function after being treated with the FDA-approved drug rapamycin for just three months. The research, led by a team of scientists ...

Blocking key enzyme in cancer cells could lead to new therapy

August 1, 2013
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine have identified a characteristic unique to cancer cells in an animal model of cancer—and they believe it could be exploited as a target to develop ...

In mice, diabetes drug metformin tied to longer, healthier lives

July 30, 2013
(HealthDay)—A new study in mice hints that the widely used diabetes drug metformin might have life-extending benefits beyond its effects on diabetes.

Recommended for you

Scientists provide insight into genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders

July 21, 2017
A study by scientists at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) is providing insight into the genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. In this research, the first mouse model of a mutation ...

Scientists identify new way cells turn off genes

July 19, 2017
Cells have more than one trick up their sleeve for controlling certain genes that regulate fetal growth and development.

South Asian genomes could be boon for disease research, scientists say

July 18, 2017
The Indian subcontinent's massive population is nearing 1.5 billion according to recent accounts. But that population is far from monolithic; it's made up of nearly 5,000 well-defined sub-groups, making the region one of ...

Mutant yeast reveals details of the aberrant genomic machinery of children's high-grade gliomas

July 18, 2017
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital biologists have used engineered yeast cells to discover how a mutation that is frequently found in pediatric brain tumor high-grade glioma triggers a cascade of genomic malfunctions.

Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism

July 17, 2017
A study of nearly 6,000 families, combining three genetic sequencing technologies, finds that mutations that occur after conception play an important role in autism. A team led by investigators at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Newly identified genetic marker may help detect high-risk flu patients

July 17, 2017
Researchers have discovered an inherited genetic variation that may help identify patients at elevated risk for severe, potentially fatal influenza infections. The scientists have also linked the gene variant to a mechanism ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

satanfornoreason
not rated yet Aug 29, 2013
this research may help guide therapies.... I can't count the number of stories I've read over the years that proclaim a huge new advance in understanding, yet how few of these translate into things that can help. It's always, the new research is promising, or this wonder drug helped everyone in the study but must go through 30 years of clinical trials. Not that that stuff isn't important, but it's almost as if the researchers have no sense of urgency about their findings. Very strange.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.