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Cracking the code for longevity? A breakthrough in understanding the relationship between sex and life expectancy

A study by Hebrew University researchers opens innovative avenues in understanding the influence of sex cells on life expectancy and sheds light on the central role of sex cells and fertility on longevity

A researcher examines a killifish fish. The image was prepared using DALEE and is not a scientific image
A researcher examines a killifish fish. The image was prepared using DALEE and is not a scientific image

Aging is the main risk factor for many diseases including cancer, diabetes and diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia. Preventing aging can contribute a lot to the human race, but the control of the aging process remains largely unknown. According to classical evolutionary theories, there is a balance between reproduction, damage repair and lifespan. Fascinating historical evidence suggests that our sex cells can influence the aging process. For example, high-class Korean eunuchs lived about 15-20 years longer than people of similar socioeconomic status. However, the specific role of our germ cells in shaping the aging process remains largely unknown.

In a groundbreaking study led by Eitan Mozes and Thila Atlan, under the direction of Dr. Itamar Harel from the Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University, the researchers examined how the sex cells affect life expectancy, by using a new model of old age - the killifish, which originates from the savannahs of Africa. This fish experiences sexual maturation the fastest among vertebrates, a total of 14 days after hatching, and it dies of old age at the age of only four to six months. During its short life, the killifish shows signs of old age very similar to ours - humans, such as a decrease in cognitive abilities and a decrease in fertility, as well as the appearance of age-related diseases such as cancer. With the help of genetic manipulation of the fish's gametes, the researchers revealed intriguing findings regarding the effect of fertility on lifespan and the role of gametes in shaping the aging process.

In the study, published in the leading journal Nature Aging, the researchers stopped the differentiation of the fish's gametes at different stages, and examined how different shades of infertility, or sterility, affect lifespan. First, the research team mapped all the types of cells in the ovaries and testes of the fish, and discovered that they are very similar to our own. The genetic modeling investigation revealed that of all the genetic manipulations tested, only complete removal of the gametes improved the females' ability to heal themselves after radiation exposure, while stopping the differentiation of the gametes did not. In addition, the researchers found that the lifespan of males without gametes was significantly longer, which was demonstrated for the first time in vertebrates. These results indicate that the very presence of the gametes can have an extraordinary effect on lifespan, as only complete elimination of the gametes affected the fish. Intriguingly, these effects were gender dependent (male or female), as the researchers did not detect radiation resistance in males or life extension in females.

Analysis of gene expression in gameteless fish revealed a marked alteration of pathways and genes associated with extended lifespan. Also, the researchers were able to show that some of their conclusions are evolutionarily conserved by conducting parallel experiments in the common model animal, the worm C.elegans. Furthermore, the absence of sex cells in males improved the health of the fish and not just their longevity. The researchers showed that the metabolic function of old sexless fish was similar

more to the function of young fish and also discovered findings indicating a significant gap in aging control between males and females, suggesting that our species plays a crucial role in aging.

"Our findings indicate that the complete removal of the sex cells extends life, only in males, by 50%. On the other hand, it gives females resistance to radiation," explains Dr. Harel about the importance of the research, noting: "Old males without sex cells also experience an improvement in health, which is manifested in improved metabolic function. In follow-up studies, in which we will try to understand the mechanism, we will be able to develop drugs that will work in a similar way to prolonging life, of course without the need to harm fertility."

Link to the full study

More of the topic in Hayadan:

4 תגובות

  1. There is also a Russian study where adding more testicles also has longevity

  2. It makes sense that there would be an evolutionary effect on the difference between the lifespan of males and females.
    The males in the last years of their lives are no longer effective while the females often continue to help the next generation in raising the next generation's offspring. The males can only get in the way because they will continue to demand the attention of the females instead of it being directed to help the next generations. The research finds how this manifests itself.

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