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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Researchers may have found a Longevity Gene

Harvard University researchers have isolated a gene known as PCN1 in yeast that affects yeast’s life span. Yeast and mankind share much of the same genetic makeup, consequently researchers often use yeast to help them understand how analogous human genes function.

Researchers found that yeast with five duplicates of this gene live nearly seventy percent longer life spans than yeast with less copies of PCN1. PCN1 controls the formation of nicotinamide (a type of B3), a chemical compound that seems to control cell death. The study results indicate that higher levels of this substance cause more rapid cell death and that lower levels of nicotinamide allow cells to live longer.

Interestingly, researchers also found that PCN1 is sensitive to heat, lower salt levels, and most importantly limiting calorie intake. Of course, we have all seen the studies done with rats that show that rats that endure near starvation conditions live longer. Researchers have also conducted these same studies with fruit flies and worms with similar results.

Researchers believe this same phenomenon may be true for humans as well, and that human longevity may be potentially improved through caloric restrictions. Researchers are exploring the possibility that increased life span occurs due to the body’s natural cellular defense to starvation.

Researchers are so intrigued with their yeast study results, they have decided to conduct a study that will explore the possibility that humans also have a gene similar to PCN1, which of course holds the potential of longer life spans for humans.

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