(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have come to the conclusion that the slower the genetic code mutates, the longer a person lives.
A study that attempts to shed light on genetic changes with aging has found that despite huge differences in lifespan and size, different animal species end their natural lives with the same amount of genetic changes.
Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute conducted a genetic study on 16 species, including humans, mice, lions, giraffes, tigers, and the long-lived, highly cancer-resistant hairless mole rat, confirming that a slower mutation rate leads to longer lifespans.
A mutation is a change in the DNA sequence that, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute, can be the result of DNA copying errors made during cell division, exposure to ionizing radiation, exposure to chemicals called mutagens, or infection with viruses. These same mutations underlie cancer.
A study published in the journal Nature suggests that somatic mutation rates are evolutionarily limited and may be a contributing factor to aging.
Genetic changes, also known as somatic mutations, occur in all cells throughout the life of an organism. This is a natural process where cells acquire between 20 and 50 mutations per year in humans. Most of these mutations will be harmless, but some of them can disrupt normal cell function and lead to cancer.
“It was surprising to find a similar pattern of genetic changes in animals that differ from each other.
But the most exciting aspect of the study has to be the finding that lifespan is inversely related to somatic mutation rates,” said Dr. Alex Kagan of the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
The researchers generated whole genome sequences from 208 intestinal fragments taken from 48 people to measure mutation rates in individual intestinal stem cells.
Genome analysis showed that somatic mutations accumulated linearly over time and that they were caused by the same mechanisms in all species, including humans, despite their different diets and life histories.
The scientists also noticed that the rate of somatic mutation decreased as the lifespan of each species increased.
However, they did not find a significant association between somatic mutation rates and body weight, indicating that other factors must be involved in the ability of large animals to reduce cancer risk relative to their size.
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