Secret of eternal youth may be in reptiles

João Pedro Magalhães, researcher in the Biology of Aging, suggests, in work published in the June edition of the magazine “Experimental Gerontology” and entitled “The evolution of mammalian aging”, that the study of certain species of reptiles and amphibians that apparently do not age could lead to discoveries about aging.

For this Portuguese scientist the secret of eternal youth could be in the relationship, already scientifically shown, between the size and longevity of different species and the fact that animals of bigger species live longer and age more slowly.

According to these studies, carried out with the collaboration of Olivier Toussaint, the most accelerated examples of aging in mammals could be connected to the fact that after their evolution from reptiles they spent close to 100 million years as small animals and therefore with shorter longevity.

Taking into account the hypothesis defended here by João Pedro de Magalhães, that the genes that in reptiles allow for the slowing down or avoiding of the aging process were lost by small mammals, this study could be the basis of the development of new therapies that permit the slowing of the aging process in humans.

As such, it is important to be able to identify the genes that give reptiles their longevity, which can only be achieved through a comparative study of the DNA repair systems between mammals and reptiles.

The decoding of the genome of the reptile is, therefore, the next step in favour of bigger discoveries in this matter.

A graduate of Microbiology from Escola Superior de Biotecnologia da Universidade Católica Portuguesa (Porto), João Pedro de Magalhães, 24 years old, is currently doing a Phd in the Biology of Aging at the University of Namur, Belgium.

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