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In the article “Live long, pass it on” by Tina, Saey elaborates on new discoveries regarding longevity and how it can be achieved not through changes in genes themselves but rather through chemical tags called “histones” that affect gene activity without necessarily changing the overall makeup of the genes (Saey, 1). In her, article Saey focuses on the use of roundworms as experimental subjects in studies examining the effect of histones on extended life spans. These studies conducted by academic institutions such as Stanford and Harvard reveal that the descendents of particular roundworms up to the third generation that had mutations in the way in which histones interacted with genes lived up to 5 to 6 days longer, an overall 30% increase in lifespan, as compared to other roundworms.
While it is indicated in the article that the life-extending nature of such changes ended for some unknown reason by the fourth generation, the study is interesting due to the fact that the aging process that roundworms undergo is also evident in other species, including humans as well. This sheds light on new possible approaches in extending overall human longevity by exploring both genetic and epigenetic factors, which may yield tangible results with human life spans potentially being extended by several decades. Unfortunately, the article does indicate that at present, it is still unknown exactly how long life is passed on from generation to generation; however, through future testing and experiments, it can be assumed that such mysteries will yield their secrets soon enough.
Previous Knowledge on the Topic
My earlier preconceptions regarding this particular topic were based on information regarding DNA telomeres and how, through constant replication of DNA strings in new cells, telomeres continue to degrade over time resulting in deteriorating biological functions, which is connected to the concept of aging. Other related factors that I knew of prior to reading this article were connected to how environmental factors affect the rates of aging in particular populations and how people who actually eat less age at a far slower rate as compared to people who eat large amounts.
This was based on general knowledge obtained through natural science programs on National Geographic as well as articles published in relevant news publications. It was actually based on the information that I had initially garnered that I believed that aging and longevity were connected primarily to genetic and environmental factors rather than epigenetic factors as indicated in the article examined.
What I want to know
While the article was interesting I want to see an examination of other species where epigenetic factors proved to be a facilitator of longevity. For example, the use of laboratory mice as well as other species from the order of Mammalians should prove more interesting than round worms and as such would reveal more information that could prove useful in future experiments where human longevity through artificial epigenetic manipulation could be achieved.
Overall I would have to say that the most surprising aspect of this article was that it strayed from the more popular telomeres model of aging and focused on epigenetic factors. It revealed how the focus of improving human life spans shouldn’t primarily focus on genetic factors but epigenetic factors as well. It is due to this that it becomes quite interesting since it displays a process that is unique and quite interesting as compared to current mainstream ideas regarding extending the years in which a person can live.
Saey, Tina. “Live long, pass it on.” Science News. Science News, 2011. Web.