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Has the Fountain of Youth Been Discovered in Israel?

Israeli university researchers unveil their discovery of a gene that increases the lifespan of lab animals, and perhaps of humans too.
By: Abigail Klein Leichman
Published: February 28th, 2012 in Health » Israel
Dr. Haim Cohen, left, and Dr. Yariv Kanfi in their Bar-Ilan University lab with the famous long-lived mice.Pic: Yoni Reif

All the anti-aging potions, lotions and notions on the market and in development add up to a very pretty penny. Maybe some of them actually work. Yet the biology behind aging, and how to slow its effects, has never been well understood.

Now, seven years of Israeli research have revealed that it may all come down to a specific gene called Sirtuin 6, or SIRT6 for short. They described their study in the February 22 online issue of the popular science journal Nature.

SIRT6 is one of seven sirtuin genes that encode a class of proteins found in every species from single-celled yeast to complex humans. For years, scientists had zeroed in on SIRT1. When they removed SIRT1 from yeast, worms and flies, these creatures aged faster and died sooner. When they transplanted a copy of SIRT1 into the three species instead, their life expectancy increased.

But yeast and flies aren't mammals. So molecular biologist Haim Cohen of Bar-Ilan University instead turned his attention to a 2006 study involving SIRT6, which showed that mice lacking this gene aged more quickly, developing spinal curvature, calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, immune system problems and diabetes -- just like humans.

"People were mostly interested in SIRT1," Cohen said. "So I thought it might be better for us as a new lab to work on something that is less crowded."

His Bar-Ilan graduate student Yariv Kanfi spent more than five years breeding mice that would receive an extra dose of SIRT6. Most of the lab work was done in Bar-Ilan, the pathology at Hebrew University's Hadassah Medical School and the bioinformatics by Ziv Bar-Joseph, an Israeli professor at Pennsylvania's Carnegie Mellon University.

This article is republished with permission from Israel21c. To read the rest of the story, click here.

Related articles: Fountain of Youth, SIRT6, Hebrew University
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