How would you like to stay young?

Caenorhabditis elegans roundworms got their young life extended. Image credit: Deretil Nature

Today I am getting one year older, and there is nothing to brag about. But probably this explains why I got so interested in reading about the work carried out at the Scripps Research Institute on the Caenorhabditis elegans (a worm, a roundworm to be precise). Researchers have discovered a way to stop youth for some time, so that the worm doesn't get old. 
Now, that is nice!  So far work has focused, with some success on animals, to prolong life but that happens by extending the elderly age. Much nicer (albeit too late for me) if one could extend the youth period!

The researchers have discovered that administering an antidepressant (mianserin) to the worm once it is just a few days old it prolong the youth phase. However, the process does not work if the drug is given once the "ageing" has begun. It looks like there is (for a worm) a small windows of opportunity to remain young. You miss it, too bad.

This has been found to be related to to the fact that beyond a certain age a group of genes change the way their expression thus making the drug useless. They called this change "transcriptional drift" and it appears that is common to several other animals, including humans.

Does it mean that there is a magic window for us when getting that drug will keep us young longer?  It is not a given and it will take quite a bit of time (and a lot of ethical issues) before this can be trialled on humans.

I should say that keeping my four kids forever young is not at the top of my priorities. I would very much appreciate some advances on the "getting younger" goal, but nothing seems to be on the horizons.

So let me forget about it as I blow on the candles (several blows actually) and enjoy the cake!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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