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Scientists succeed in turning back the aging clock on fruit flies

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November 29th, 2017
Fruit flies.

Fruit flies.

New research by University of California Los Angeles scientists suggests that it’s possible to reverse aging. 

The study, sponsored in part by the National Institute on Aging, focused on fruit flies—specifically the mitochondria, which are components of cells that provide energy. Mitochondria wear down with age, and for unknown reasons tend to build up in organs, muscles, and most notably the brain, because the cells can’t eliminate them. This buildup may be a reason why humans develop age-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. 

In this study, the researchers could destroy damaged mitochondria in middle-aged fruit flies by breaking it up into smaller pieces. When they did so, the flies became increasingly active and energetic. Female fruit flies lived about 20% longer than usual, and males lived about 12% longer. 

Preliminary but promising

Although this is preliminary research, it is significant because fruit flies are similar to humans with regard to cellular aging, and scientist know all of the genes in fruit flies, so they can manipulate the genes and study resulting effects. 

Fruit flies are often used for studies on aging because their short lifespan enables scientists to track the effects of specific treatments within a manageable period of time, and many of the features of aging at the cellular level are similar to those of humans. In addition, scientists have identified all of the fruit fly’s genes and know how to switch individual ones on and off.

The researchers hope this will stimulate more research into aging processes and help to eventually slow aging in humans. 

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