The average lifespan of a group of mice has been extended by about 20 percent via lowering the expression of a single gene by researchers at the National Institutes of Health.
This is equivalent of raising the average human lifespan by 16 years, from 79 to 95.
The research team targeted a gene called mTOR, which is involved in metabolism and energy balance, and may be connected with the increased lifespan associated with caloric restriction.
A detailed study of these mice revealed that gene-influenced lifespan extension did not affect every tissue and organ the same way.
For example, the mice retained better memory and balance as they aged, but their bones deteriorated more quickly than normal.
"While the high extension in lifespan is noteworthy, this study reinforces an important facet of aging; it is not uniform," lead researcher Toren Finkel, M.D., Ph.D., at NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), said.
"Rather, similar to circadian rhythms, an animal might have several organ-specific aging clocks that generally work together to govern the aging of the whole organism," the researcher said.
Finkel, who heads the NHLBI's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the Division of Intramural Research, noted that these results may help guide therapies for aging-related diseases that target specific organs, like Alzheimer's.
However, further studies in these mice as well as human cells are needed to identify exactly how aging in these different tissues is connected at the molecular level.
The study is published in Cell Reports.