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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012 May;67(5):503-10. doi: 10.1093/gerona/gls088. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Genetics, life span, health span, and the aging process in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Program in Gene Function and Expression, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.


As a tool for measuring the aging process, life span has been invaluable in dissecting the genes that modulate longevity. Studies over the past few decades have identified several hundred genes that can modify life span in model organisms such as yeast, worms, and flies. Yet, despite this vast amount of research, we still do not fully understand how the genes that affect life span influence how an organism ages. How does modulation of the genes that affect life span contribute to the aging process? Does life-span extension result in extension of healthy aging? Here, we will focus primarily on the insulin/IGF-1 signaling pathway in Caenorhabditis elegans because members of this pathway have been shown to be associated with extended life span across phylogeny, from worms to humans. I discuss how this connects to the aging process, age-associated disease, and the potential to increase healthy aging in addition to lengthening life span.

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