Scientists identify mechanism that can prolong life in ‘Indy’ fruit flies

January 23rd, 2009 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 23 (IANS) Scientists have identified a cellular mechanism in mutated “Indy” fruit flies that could help prolong life by cutting down the output of free radicals. The finding by Stephen Helfand and Nicola Neretti of Brown University and others adds another piece to the puzzle that Helfand, a professor of biology first discovered in 2000.

Back then, he identified a mutation in the Indy (’I'm not dead yet’) gene that can extend the life span of fruit flies.

Subsequent studies of the Indy flies unravelled a mechanism in those genetically altered fruit flies that seems to reduce the production of free radicals, a cellular byproduct that can contribute to the ageing process.

This intervention takes place with few or no side effects on the quality of life for the fruit fly. The discovery could lead to the development of new anti-ageing treatments.

“There are very few, if any, interventions that are known to dramatically extend healthy lifespan,” Helfand said. “Understanding how… the Indy mutation alters the metabolic state of the fruit fly would allow someone to come up with pharmacological interventions that could mimic it and give you the benefit of genetic manipulation without having to do genetics.”

With Helfand having established that the mutated Indy gene helped fruit flies live longer, he now wanted to explore what mechanisms lead to the longer life of the fruit fly. Indy flies’ life span increased from an average life span of about 35 days to 70 days, said a Brown University release.

The findings are detailed in the Jan 21 edition of the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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