Lifespan extension at low temperatures is genetically controlled, study suggests

December 11, 2018, Marine Biological Laboratory
Female rotifer (Brachionus), a model system for aging research. Credit: Michael Shribak and Kristin Gribble

Why do we age? Despite more than a century of research (and a vast industry of youth-promising products), what causes our cells and organs to deteriorate with age is still unknown.

One known factor is : Many live longer at than they do at . As a result, "there are people out there who believe, strongly, that if you take a cold shower every day it will extend your ," says Kristin Gribble, a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL).

But a new study from Gribble's lab indicates that it's not just a matter of turning down the thermostat. Rather, the extent to which temperature affects lifespan depends on an individual's genes.

Gribble's study, published in Experimental Gerentology, was conducted in the rotifer, a tiny animal that has been used in aging research for more than 100 years. Gribble's team exposed 11 genetically distinct strains of rotifers (Brachionus) to low temperature, with the hypothesis that if the mechanism of lifespan extension is purely a thermodynamic response, all strains should have a similar lifespan increase.

However, the median lifespan increase ranged from 6 percent to 100 percent across the strains, they found. They also observed differences in mortality rate.

Gribble's study clarifies the role of temperature in the free-radical theory of aging, which has dominated the field since the 1950s. This theory proposes that animals age due to the accumulation of cellular damage from reactive oxidative species (ROS), a form of oxygen that is generated by normal metabolic processes.

"Generally, it was thought that if an organism is exposed to lower temperature, it passively lowers their metabolic rate and that slows the release of ROS, which slows down cellular damage. That, in turn, delays aging and extends lifespan," Gribble says.

Her results, however, indicate that the change in lifespan under low temperature is likely actively controlled by specific genes. "This means we really need to pay more attention to in thinking about responses to aging therapies," she says. "That is going to be really important when we try to move some of these therapies into humans."

Explore further: Research links ankle injury to health problems later in life

More information: Kristin E. Gribble et al, Congeneric variability in lifespan extension and onset of senescence suggest active regulation of aging in response to low temperature, Experimental Gerontology (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.10.023

Related Stories

New tools aid hunt for life-extending chemicals

November 29, 2017

Yale researchers have discovered novel chemical compounds that extend the lifespan of a species of yeast by using a new technology that could also hunt for tools to combat aging in other species as well, they report Nov. ...

A protein that extends life of yeast cells

September 6, 2017

To understand and control aging is the aspiration of many scientists. Researchers at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have now discovered that the protein Gcn4 decreases protein synthesis and extends the life of ...

Recommended for you

Paleontologists report world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex

March 22, 2019

University of Alberta paleontologists have just reported the world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex and the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada. The 13-metre-long T. rex, nicknamed "Scotty," lived in prehistoric Saskatchewan ...

NASA instruments image fireball over Bering Sea

March 22, 2019

On Dec. 18, 2018, a large "fireball—the term used for exceptionally bright meteors that are visible over a wide area—exploded about 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the Bering Sea. The explosion unleashed an estimated 173 ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Hyperfuzzy
not rated yet Dec 11, 2018
More stuff happens at higher temperatures. However with added controls, this may be defined.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.