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The secret of long-term health in old age


Is the worm the key to healthy aging?

Unfortunately, the rising life expectancy in recent decades has not led to the same increase in the health or quality of life of people aged. Therefore, researchers are looking for ways to increase the quality of life in old age. The newly discovered gene in worms can now provide answers.

A recent study by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) revealed a gene in a worm that is associated with the healthy aging of the circular worm C. elegans. The results of the study were published in the English magazine "G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics".

Improved quality of life and health in old age with the help of a genome discovered by worms? (Image: pixelstock /

Movement in age is a health indicator

A gene named elpc-2, which plays an important role in maintaining the state of health when a worm is aging, has been identified in the round worm C. elegans. Worms with disadvantages in this gene show disorders of movement in old age. Movement in age is an indication of the health of people and worms. This gene is preserved in humans, researchers report. "When we get older, some people keep their full mobility, while other people do not, and we want to understand genetic reasons," explains author dr. Kazuta Kawamura of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in a press release.

C. elegans is good for studying aging

This gene is one of many other genes that play an important role in healthy aging. A new experimental approach allows hundreds of worms to be studied simultaneously, which could be useful for other research in the future. Gen elpc-2 is expressed throughout the body with C. elegans. It plays an important role in the ability to move when worms aging. C. elegans is a useful model for studying aging, since worms have a short lifespan and can be easily manipulated in a laboratory. Researchers inserted random mutations in the genome of these worms. By studying the offspring of mutant worms, it was possible to analyze which mutations had an effect on health.

How was the test structure structured?

The researchers investigated whether organisms were able to maintain their ability to switch to food sources when they became elderly. For this, worms were placed in the middle of the bowl, food on the bowl of the bowl. Worms, by their nature, move to food until their movement is weakened. All the worms that did not reach the feed on the first day were removed from the experiment. The authors wanted to determine how the ability to move around decreases over the years. The remaining worms were re-tested when they were aging, using the same approach. In this later test, several worms with motion disorders were detected. These were then sequenced and their DNA was compared with the DNA of a normal worm to find mutations and identify the responsible genes.

What is the Elongator complex?

It was not difficult for researchers to create hundreds of random mutations. It is more difficult to determine which mutation is responsible for the effect on the ability to move. However, with the new approach of worms that crawl up to the source of food at the edge of the shell, we can simultaneously test the mobility of hundreds of worms, the authors explain. In this way, the researchers identified the gene elpc-2 and its role in the worm's health. Gen encodes part of the so-called elongator complex, which has many important functions, including control of the correct stacking of proteins. Some of these proteins can play a role in movement. Worms with damaged elpc-2 genes did not have a functioning elongator complex, which explains why the movement was weakened. To confirm this, researchers injected these worms with a copy of the gene and the movement was restored.

Further research will take place in Germany

It is also interesting that other genes have also been identified, which also have a major impact on health, but not on the life of animals, authors report. In other words, the basic mutations did not have a major impact on how long the worm lives, but how it moves. This suggests that although health and life span overlap, the genetic bases are different, explains the researchers. In the future, the author of the Kawamura study wants to explore other genes that are important for healthy aging. "When we have a more complete picture of the genes involved, we can begin to manipulate them to improve our health, first in C. elegans and perhaps one day in humans," says the author. Kawamura will continue his work at C. elegans at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging in Germany. (V)


  • Kazuto Kawamura, Ichiro N. Maruyama: Next genetic screen for Caenorhabditis elegans Mutanti with shortened locomotor health, in G3: Genes, Genome, Genetics (search: 14/07/2019), G3: Genes, Genome, Genetics
  • New gene associated with healthy aging in Worms, Okinawa Science and Technology Institute (requirement: 14/07/2019), OIST

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