University of Hong Kong scientists may have found key to longevity

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 3:55am

If you hope to live a longer, healthier life, scientists at the University of Hong Kong may have unlocked clues to help you do just that.

Scientists studying Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS), a genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly, have found that by over-expressing the "longevity gene" Sirtuin1 in mice with HGPS, they can extend the animals' healthy lifespan by 30 per cent.

"HGPS and normal ageing have a similar mechanism," said Zhou Zhongjun, associate professor of HKU's biochemistry department. He said his team extended the mice's healthy lifespan by giving them Resveratrol, a substance found in grape skin and wine.

The substance causes Lamin A, a protein in the body, to more strongly express the Sirtuin1 gene, which in turn stops the decline of adult stem cells and delays the mice's ageing process.

While more studies have to be done to find out if Resveratrol will similarly benefit humans and whether it has harmful effects in larger doses, Zhou is hopeful: "[The savings to] health care costs will be phenomenal if we can decrease the time people are sick."

Children with HGPS live for just 13 years on average.