Aging, the Final Frontier
SAN FRANCISCO – Even if young people think they are immortal, they can’t help but notice how fast their pets age. The puppy we receive as a child is old by the time we reach adulthood. Why do we live longer than dogs? The answer must lie in our genes, because genes are ultimately what make us different from other animals.
Presumably, we live longer than dogs because, during the evolution of our common ancestor, gene changes occurred in our lineage that slowed our rate of aging. To find the genes that can influence aging, researchers have begun to change individual genes in specific animal species, hoping to copy some of what evolution has done so well.
You might think that many genes would have to be changed to extend lifespan – genes affecting muscle strength, wrinkles, dementia, and so forth. But researchers have found something quite surprising: there are certain genes whose alteration can slow the aging of the whole animal all at once.