Congratulations to my colleague, Dr. Alexey Moskalev, who, with collaboration with Dr. Vadim Gladyshev, published this awesome paper on genetic basis of exceptional longevity of the Brandt’s bat. This is an amazing animal – it lives up to more than 40 years of age, but weighs only 4-8 grams. A tiny “centenarian” creature. It lives in caves, sleeps during the day, echolocates and hibernates during winter. Every trait has its genetic background. The authors tried to decipher the background of the bat’s longevity.
The most important thing that they found was that Brandt’s bat has altered growth hormone and insulin growth factor 1 signaling (GH/IGF1). This signaling is reduced, there is a kind of dysfunction, that contributes to the animal’s longevity along with the adaptations like hibernation and low reproduction rate. There are other interesting findings. For example, olfactory function is also reduced in these amazing animals. It’s interesting, because olfactory system plays a role in regulating longevity. For example, if you put drosophilas on a restricted diet, they start to live longer, but if you let them smell food, then life extension effect goes away.
I think that this work is crucial, because if we are able to identify the genes that are responsible to exceptional longevity in species like naked mole rats, whales and rougheye rockfish, we’d be able to find the way to alter the activity of those longevity genes in our bodies, for example, pharmacologically. Eventually this will lead to creating life extension therapies that would make us live longer, healthier and happier lives.
There’s this quite simple idea: to take two species similar in size and basic biology, but having a substantial difference in longevity, and figure out what’s the reason for this difference. What are the distinctions in the mechnisms of aging and stress resistance? It’s desirable to carry out this work in various species. However, not a lot of people are excited about this simple idea. Even the genome of the famous naked mole rat has not been sequenced yet, although many people believe it’s got “negligible” senescence.
For now all that we have is negligible funding of evolutionary-comparative biology of aging. Moreover, previously obtained results are put into cold storage.
In 1962 George Sacher began laboratory breeding of wild-caught house mice (Mus musculus) and white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) trapped near the Argonne Laboratory site in northeast Illinois. The maximal lifespan of the white-footed mouse turned out to be more than 8 years, contrary to 3,5 years in either wild-caught or laboratory house mice. Sacher’s laboratory publiched about a dozen papers comparing house and white-footed mice, as did Ron Hart’s laboratory in the National Center for Toxicological Research.
There’s no need to say that George Sacher was given grants mostly for works in the area of radiological protection, and aging research was mostly funded by means of the lab’s own resources.
Since the beginning of the 1980s research was just middling, but still something was found out.
Below are some data from the works of Ungvary et al. and Labinskyy et al. Basicly this table shows the major known differences between the species. The autors claim that these data correspond with the oxidative stress theory of aging.
Still a lot of questions can be addressed to the white-footed mouse. For example, what is the destinction in the stress resistance mechanisms? What’s with its regeneration capacity? What if we compare it with the naked mole rat? And here comes the main question in Biogerontology. Why is the research into the fundamental mechanisms of aging so scarcely funded?