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Worms live longer with thioflavin T

Dye used in Alzheimer’s research promotes longevity in lab nematodes

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1:26pm, March 30, 2011

One secret to living a longer life — be a worm.

Wriggly roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans), it seems, have found themselves a new philosopher’s stone. Doses of a dye used to visualize the proteins that build up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients can up worm life span by more than half, California researchers report online March 30 in Nature. The dye, called thioflavin T, seems to prevent the deviant protein clumps often associated with a number of human age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s, researchers say.

During aging, the body accumulates proteins that aren’t shaped, or “folded,” the way they should be, says Richard Morimoto, a molecular biologist at Northwestern University in Evanston Ill. Like replacing finely tuned engine components with parts from a 30-year-old Yugo, those proteins don’t work and can even damage entire organs. “All of a sudden, your Porsche isn’t running like a Porsche,” Morimoto says.

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