25 September 2023

Naked digger longevity gene extended the life of mice

In a groundbreaking study conducted at the University of Rochester and Harvard Medical School (USA), scientists have successfully transferred the gene responsible for longevity from naked diggers to mice, resulting in improved health and longevity in the latter. The scientific paper was published in the journal Nature.

Naked mammals are rodents known for being immune to the aging process, cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. These animals are characterized by a very long lifespan. 

This is partly due to the presence in the DNA of these animals gene HMW-HA, responsible for enhanced cell repair and protection, and more specifically - for the production of high-molecular hyaluronic acid. Compared to mice and humans, naked shrews have about ten times more HMW-HA in their bodies. When the gene was removed from cells in the experiments, the cells were more likely to form tumors.

A team of researchers with the participation of well-known gerontology biologists Vera Gorbunova, Andrei Seluanov, Vadim Gladyshev and Steve Horvath decided to find out whether it is possible to reproduce the positive effect of HMW-HA in other animals.

The experts created a version of the hyaluronan synthase-2 gene, which is responsible for the production of HMW-HA-producing protein. Although all mammals have the hyaluronan synthase-2 gene, the naked mammal version appears to be amplified and provides stronger expression of the gene. 

It was found that mice with the naked mammal longevity gene had higher protection against the development of malignant neoplasms. They also had better overall health and lived much longer than their relatives (by 4.4 percent) who did not have the gene. As the animals aged, they showed significantly less inflammation in various parts of the body and also maintained normal gut health.

While more research is needed into why HMW-HA has such beneficial effects, experts believe it is due to the gene's ability to directly regulate the immune system.

The findings, according to the authors of the paper, open up new avenues for studying how HMW-HA can be used to increase longevity and treat inflammation-related diseases in humans.

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