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.