Researchers have identified a single gene—called "parkin"—that may extend a person's lifespan by more than 25%, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For the study, University of California-Los Angeles researchers identified parkin after stimulating about 15,000 different genes in fruit flies. They found that when parkin was stimulated, it led to "a significant increase in longevity without any physiological tradeoffs," according to lead author David Walker.
"In the control group, the flies are all dead by day 50," Walker said in a statement, adding, "In the group with parkin overexpressed, almost half of the population is still alive after 50 days…the consequences for the organism are profound."
Parkin plays an important role in getting rid of damaged cell proteins, almost like a "cellular garbage disposal," Walker says. Parkin has been previously linked to Parkinson's disease in humans. Walker and his colleagues believe that parkin could be related to a host of diseases that occur primarily in elderly patients.
"Instead of studying the diseases of aging one by one, we believe it may be possible to intervene in the aging process and delay the onset of many of these diseases," Walker says (Koebler, U.S. News & World Report, 5/6).