AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: cellular pathways

The Network to Longer Life


A recent collaborative study between scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, the MDI Biological Laboratory, and the Nanjing University in China found an interesting synergetic pathway between the IIS (insulin signaling pathway) and TOR pathway by studying C.elegans: nematodes that share many genes with human beings.

The short lifespan of C.elegans (three to four weeks) allowed the scientists to identify the cellular pathways that regulated aging. The scientists were able to genetically change the IIS and TOR pathways by using a double mutant on the C.elegans. The alterations were expected to yield a 130% increase in the lifespan of the C.elegans, since altering the IIS pathway yields a 100% increase and altering the TOR pathway yields a 30% increase. However, the math didn’t work out, and that’s a good thing! Surprisingly, the lifespan of the C.elegans increased by 500%.

So, even though the scientists discovered the pathways that regulated aging in C.elegans, the nuances of these interactions are still unclear. A paper discussing this topic relates longevity to the mitochondria’s role in maintaining homeostasis.  Jarod A. Rollins, one of the authors of the paper, hopes to further clarify and investigate the role of mitochondria on aging in his future research.

Even still, the discover of these cellular pathways could lead to longer lives for humans. Pathways such as these were passed down to humans by evolution (conserved) so, the 500% increase in longevity that occurred in C.elegans after alteration could also occur in humans. Although the way in which these pathways affect each other is unclear, we now know that multiple genes and cellular pathways contribute to the aging process.

How do you think that the IIS and TOR pathways affect each other? If our lifespans are expanded in the future, what will be the moral and societal implications?


Meeting Your Great Great Great… Grandchildren

The MDI Biological Lab along with the Buck Institute of Research on Aging have discovered cell pathways that could increase the human lifespan by 400-500%. “The increase in lifespan would be the equivalent of a human living for 400 or 500 years.” The implications this would have are immense along with some potential drawbacks, but let’s get into the science first.

The research was conducted on C. elegans, a nematode, because “it shares many of its genes with humans and because its short lifespan of only three to four weeks.” The short lifespan allows scientists to quickly see the effects of their efforts to extend the healthy lifespan. The keyword here is “healthy” because prolonging life means nothing unless you can extend the quality as well. The scientists used a double mutant in the insulin signaling and TOR pathways. The alteration in the insulin pathway yields a 100% increase in lifespan and the TOR pathway yields a 30% increase. The incredible discovery though was that when combined the new lifespan was amplified by 500%!! The expected yield was 130%.

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Here depicted is a diagram showing the meaning of a double mutant.

Researchers still say “the discovery in C. elegans of cellular pathways that govern aging, it hasn’t been clear how these pathways interact.” This discovery does lead to the mindset that the important methods of anti-aging are in the interactions between cellular pathways rather than singular pathways. This newly found interaction could also explain why scientists have had trouble discovering “the gene” the governs aging. The combinations of these treatments are described as being similar to the “way that combination therapies are used to treat cancer and HIV.”

It’s odd to picture a world where this treatment could be considered “cosmetic” in a way. Eventually, the human lifespan could expand to hundreds of years with some even living to 1000. The implications that this could have are a current problem we have of overpopulation. It is farfetched, but this would help immensely with the mission to expand into space. The ability to survive with hundreds of years on a potential “colony ship” allows humans to expand to other planets where we would be able to expand greatly. I’ll end with a question: If this treatment was 100% safe and affordable, would you get it? Why or why not?

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