Boost in protein repair extends fly lives

9:55am, December 12, 2001

Here's news that may interest the many senior citizens in tropical Florida: In warmer-than-normal conditions, fruit flies that overproduce a protein-repair enzyme live about one-third longer than typical flies.

This finding lends support to the theory that the buildup of damaged proteins in cells limits lifespan. "It's been hypothesized for many years that one of the reasons we age is that important macromolecules [such as proteins] become damaged," explains Jonathan E. Visick of North Central College in Naperville, Ill.

Scientists have identified dozens of molecules involved in the repair of DNA, but they've made far less progress unraveling mechanisms by which cells fix damaged proteins. Indeed, many biologists have assumed that protein repair isn't important because cells can simply make replacements.

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