Researchers use banned herbicide to prolong worms' life

Dec 08, 2010

It sounds like science fiction – Dr. Siegfried Hekimi and his student Dr. Wen Yang, researchers at McGill's Department of Biology, tested the current "free radical theory of aging" by creating mutant worms that had increased production of free radicals, predicting they would be short-lived. But they lived even longer than regular worms! Moreover, their enhanced longevity was abolished when they were treated with antioxidants such as vitamin C.

The researchers then sought to mimic the apparent beneficial effect of the free radicals by treating regular, wild worms with Paraquat, an that works by increasing the production of free radicals. Paraquat is so toxic to humans and animals that it is banned in the European Union and its use restricted in many other places. Much to his delight, Hekimi discovered that the worms actually lived longer after being exposed to the chemical. “Don’t try this at home!” Dr. Hekimi feels he should remind everyone. These findings were published yesterday in PLoS Biology.

Free radicals are toxic molecules produced by our bodies as it processes oxygen. As the body grows and uses its cells’ various functions, it consumes oxygen, generating free radicals as a by-product, which in turn causes damage to cells. A long-standing theory suggests that aging is caused by a vicious cycle involving increasing production of free radicals, followed by damage to the cell and a further increase in free radicals because of the damage.

“These findings challenge our understanding of how free radicals are involved in the aging process,” Hekimi said. “The current theory is very neat and logical, but these findings suggest a different framework for why oxidative stress is associated with aging.” The genetically modified demonstrated that the production of free radicals can help to trigger the body’s general protective and repair mechanisms. In other words, at certain stages in life, free radicals may be a key part of our well-being, despite their toxicity.

“Further experimentation is required to explore exactly how this data might change our theory of aging,” Hekimi explained. “ are clearly involved, but maybe in a very different way than in the way people used to think”. For this work, the research team headed by Dr. Hekimi received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr. Hekimi also holds the Robert Archibald and Catherine Louise Campbell Chair of Developmental Biology.

Explore further: Hot-spring bacteria reveal ability to use far-red light for photosynthesis

Related Stories

Bad mitochondria may actually be good for you

Jul 22, 2009

Mice with a defective mitochondrial protein called MCLK1 produce elevated amounts of reactive oxygen when young; that should spell disaster, yet according to a study in this week's JBC these mice actually age at a slower ...

Free radical cell death switch identified

Jun 01, 2006

U.S. scientists say they've found a molecular pathway that might cause stroke, diabetes, heart and neurodegenerative disease and even the aging process.

Antioxidant to retard wrinkles discovered

Aug 30, 2007

A new method for fighting skin wrinkles has been developed at the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences.

Inflammatory diseases: Scientists identify antiviral defense

Jun 15, 2010

Canadian researchers have discovered a new way the body combats respiratory viral infections. In the prestigious journal PLoS Pathogens, scientists from the University of Montreal and the University of Montreal Hospital Resear ...

Antioxidants are unlikely to prevent aging, study suggests

Dec 01, 2008

Diets and beauty products which claim to have anti-oxidant properties are unlikely to prevent ageing, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust. Researchers at the Institute of Healthy Ageing at UCL (University College ...

Recommended for you

How plant cell compartments change with cell growth

3 hours ago

A research team led by Kiminori Toyooka from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science has developed a sophisticated microscopy technique that for the first time captures the detailed movement of ...

Plants can 'switch off' virus DNA

3 hours ago

A team of virologists and plant geneticists at Wageningen UR has demonstrated that when tomato plants contain Ty-1 resistance to the important Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), parts of the virus DNA ...

A better understanding of cell to cell communication

4 hours ago

Researchers of the ISREC Institute at the School of Life Sciences, EPFL, have deciphered the mechanism whereby some microRNAs are retained in the cell while others are secreted and delivered to neighboring ...

A glimpse at the rings that make cell division possible

4 hours ago

Forming like a blown smoke ring does, a "contractile ring" similar to a tiny muscle pinches yeast cells in two. The division of cells makes life possible, but the actual mechanics of this fundamental process ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2010
What doesn't kill you will make you stronger - even paraquat