Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Gene identified in the nematode worm that's helpful in the young but harmful post-reproductive age

02 August 2019

Length or Health?

On the left, a trio of old nematode worms paralysed by a buildup of toxic protein clumps similar to those seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. On the right, worms that differ in only one respect: they’re missing a gene called TCER-1. Previous research suggested that TCER-1 helps to give worms a longer life and boosts their fertility, so the loss of this gene should be a bad thing. Curiously, the opposite seems to be true. When scientists removed TCER-1 from worms, the modified animals are better able to withstand the negative effects of infectious bacteria, DNA-damaging radiation, toxic protein buildup and harmful high temperatures as they get older. The researchers think that while TCER-1 is helpful when worms are young and fertile, it can be harmful once they’re past reproductive age. Now they want to find out whether the same is true in humans.

Written by Kat Arney

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