Telomeres – the chromosome end sequences associated with ageing – don't shorten in exceptionally long-lived bats
With ageing populations and the increasing prevalence of age-related diseases, understanding how to stay healthy as we get older is critical. Inspiration could come from bats, which have an extraordinarily long lifespan for their body size. Brandt’s bats (Myotis brandtii, pictured) can live for over 40 years, nearly 10 times longer than expected for a mammal weighing only 7 grams. Key to the ageing process are telomeres, protective DNA repeats at the ends of chromosomes; in humans and most animals, these are progressively lost as cells replicate, ultimately causing cell death. By contrast, in Myotis bats, telomeres do not shorten with age. Moreover, while the enzyme telomerase protects telomeres in stem cells and many cancers, allowing cells to keep replicating, another mechanism is at work in these bats. Several genes associated with DNA repair may be involved, and could prove to be interesting targets for future research on ageing.
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