The secrets of longevity

A complex network of genes, a diet low in calories, and taking regular exercise seem to provide the basis of a long life.

Why do some people live longer than others? The answer may well lie in a combination of several factors, among which are a network of genes and certain lifestyles. Professor Johan Auwerx and the researcher Riekelt Houtkooper , of the Nestlé Chair in Energetic Metabolism at EPFL, have now had an essay published on this topic in the magazine “Cell ”.
The scientists found that longevity is partly determined by a network of around 750 genes, a third of which play an important role in the ability of cells to generate energy from food. Experiments have shown that in mice, for example, the presence or absence of these genes could affect their life expectancy by 350 to 900 days.
However, this network of genes is not all that’s required for longevity. Lifestyle factors are also important: for example, adopting a low-calorie diet and taking adequate exercise. “We were able to establish that, to live a long life, we should in fact only satisfy 80% of our alimentary needs,” explained Professor Auwerx.

Reproducing the interactions

The next stage will be to better understand how the interactions between these genes and lifestyles function, and to find chemical substances capable of reproducing them. Certain substances have already been shown to have an effect on life expectancy, such as Rapamycin. The administration of this immunosuppressant , used notably in transplant surgery, has allowed mice to live longer, even if they were already old.

Author: Sarah Perrin

Source: EPFL