Washington: Fruit fly intestine may hold the key to fountain of youth, say scientists.
A team at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and their collaborators found that tweaking a gene known as PGC-1, which is also found in human DNA, in the intestinal stem cells of fruit flies delayed the aging of their intestine and extended their lifespan by as much as 50 percent.
"Fruit flies and humans have a lot more in common than most people think. There is a tremendous amount of similarity between a human small intestine and the fruit fly intestine," said Prof Leanne Jones, who led the team.
This chain of connections between the mitochondria and longevity inspired Jones and her colleague to investigate what happens when the PCG-1 gene is forced into overdrive.
To do this, they used genetic engineering techniques to boost the activity of the fruit fly equivalent of the PCG-1 gene. The flies (known as Drosophila melanogaster) have a short lifespan, allowing the scientists to study ageing and longevity in ways that aren`t as feasible in longer-lived organisms such as mice or human.
The researchers found that boosting the activity of dPGC-1, the fruit fly version of the gene, resulted in greater numbers of mitochondria and more energy-production in flies -- the same phenomenon seen in organisms on calorie restricted diets.
When the activity of the gene was accelerated in stem and progenitor cells of the intestine, which serve to replenish intestinal tissues, these cellular changes correspond with better health and longer lifespan. The flies lived between 20 and 50 percent longer, depending on the method and extent to which the activity of the gene was altered.
The findings have been published in the `Cell Metabolism` journal.