New gene linked to healthy aging in worms

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The elpc-2 gene is expressed throughout the body of C. elegans, and plays an important role in locomotor ability as worms get older.

PEOPLE with the same lifespan do not necessarily have the same quality of life. As we live longer, extending quality of life — “healthspan” — is gaining importance. Scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have discovered a gene linked with healthy ageing in the roundworm C. elegans, shedding light on the genetics of healthspan.

The team has identified a gene called elpc-2 in C. elegans that plays an important role in maintaining healthspan as the worm ages. This gene is conserved in humans and worms with defects in this gene showed impaired movement as they aged. Movement at older ages is an indicator of healthspan in both humans and worms.

“As we age, some people keep full locomotor ability while others do not, and we want to understand the genetic reasons,” says Dr. Kazuto Kawamura, first author of the study, published in G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics. “This gene is one among many playing a role in healthy ageing.”

“Our new experimental approach also allows us to test hundreds of worms simultaneously, which could be useful for other researchers.”