A study from University College London found a genetic mutation in a gene encoding for more accurate translation of proteins leads to increased longevity. It is the first study to provide evidence that an animal's life is extended through improvement to the translation process.
Researchers examined genes from single-celled organisms known as archaea, or extremophiles, that thrive in extremely hot environments against genes from a variety of species and found they differed by a mutation in the gene RPS23.
To see the effect of this specific mutation in other species, these scientists used CRISPR to insert the mutation into yeast, fruit flies, and roundworms. With the new mutation, these organisms also had more accurate translation, survived at higher temperatures, and lived longer with fewer signs of aging. Older worms were now able to produce more offspring, and older flies climbed more easily compared to organisms of similar ages without this mutation.
Scientists are unsure how this genetic change improves the translation process, and it does not appear to slow down the rate of protein synthesis, which has also been associated with longevity in some organisms.
The mutation is also present in only some archaea species and is considered more costly than beneficial in certain instances. Since it slows down aging and growth, it may not be beneficial in species that need to develop quickly to compete with other species for resources.
However, for scientists, knowing the effects of this mutation could help with drug development in the future for slowing down the aging process.