Activating a specific gene makes fruit flies live 30% longer

Sep 10, 2014

By Fiona MacDonald

A team of biologists has shown that activating a gene called AMPK in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster can add two weeks to their usual six-week lifespan.

And the fruit flies didn’t just live longer, their brains aged more slowly and they stayed healthier for longer as well.

AMPK is a gene that helps regulate energy in cells – when cellular energy levels are low, it gets activated. It’s also found in humans in low levels, which led the researchers to believe that understanding its pathway could help us work out how to delay our own ageing process.

As journalist Liat Clark explains for Wired magazine, the team are driven by the idea that by repairing the molecular damage that occurs as cells degrade, we can help to avoid diseases associated with ageing.

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