Genes and a low calorie diet

John Clark (
Sat, 17 Oct 1998 00:12:01 -0400

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About a year ago it was found that if a gene called "Dave-2" in a round worm was mutated the worm was still active and fertile but lived more than twice as long as an unmutated normal worm. A new development was just reported today by Cynthia Kenyon in the October 16 issue of the journal Cell, it turns out that it's not necessary to change every cell in the worm, only a small number of the cells need to mutate for all the cells in the worm live longer including the unmutated cells. The cells in the worm must "vote" somehow and agree on how long to live because it's an all or nothing process, if the number of mutated cells is too small the worm does not live longer, even the mutated cells don't live longer. There must be a second signal (not yet found) that's given off by the cells with the change to Dave-2 that convinces all the other cells that they should live longer.

The other interesting thing is that the Dave-2 gene in humans makes a receptor for insulin and a growth factor called IGF that's deeply involved in food metabolism. The mutated roundworms eat a normal diet but their metabolism is similar to an unmutated roundworm on a very low calorie diet. A low calorie diet has extended the life span of every animal it has been tested on.

John K Clark

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