Genetic changes that slow aging in roundworms also keep the lowly baker's yeast from going rapidly over the hill, new research shows. Humans have many of these same genes, and drugs targeting them might eventually turn back our own biological clocks.
Aging shouldn't be an evolved trait, with common genes shared by distant species, many scientists once reasoned. Most animals pass on their DNA long before aging takes its toll. And throughout much of life's history, animals were likelier to die from starving or being eaten than from growing old, says biologist Brian Kennedy, who led the study.
But recent research on aging in yeast, flies, and worms has turned up a smattering of genes that lengthen life span when removed. More than 1 billion years of evolution separates yeast and roundworms.