Anti-ageing gene discovery

Researchers at UCLA have identified a gene that can slow down the ageing process throughout the whole body

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have identified a gene that can slow down the ageing process throughout the whole body when activated remotely in key organ systems. It involves a gene called AMPK.

Working with fruit flies, the scientists were able to activate AMPK, which is normally activated when cellular energy levels are low. Increasing the amount of AMPK in the fruit flies’ intestines increased their lifespans by about 30% – to around eight weeks instead of the usual six – and the flies also stayed healthier for longer.

“We have shown that when we activate the gene in the intestine or the nervous system, we see the ageing process is slowed beyond the organ system in which the gene is activated,” said senior author of the research David Walker, an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA. “Instead of studying the diseases of ageing one by one, we believe it may be possible to intervene in the ageing process and delay the onset of many of these diseases. We are not there yet, and it could, of course, take many years, but that is our goal and we think it is realistic.” He added: “The ultimate aim of our research is to promote healthy ageing in people.”