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