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New discoveries about ageing in C. elegans

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The disease syndrome that is ageing is the main cause of serious illness and death in the world today, but its underlying etiologies remain poorly understood. An influential theory has it that ageing is the result of an accumulation of molecular damage, caused in particular by reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced by mitochondria. This theory also predicts that processes that protect against oxidative damage (involving detoxification, repair and turnover) protect against ageing and increase lifespan. However, recent tests of the oxidative damage theory, some using the short-lived nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, have often failed to support the theory, motivating consideration of other models. One recent theory, developed by M.V. Blagosklonny, proposes that ageing is caused by the non-adaptive running on in later life of developmental and reproductive programmes. These ideas draw on G.C. Williams’s antagonistic pleiotropy theory and propose that late-life gene action causes development of pathologies of ageing rather than, as previously supposed, system breakdown. We have been testing these ideas in C. elegans, and find them surprisingly well supported. They have enabled identification of etiologies of several pathologies of C. elegans ageing, and generated new insights into the broader nature of ageing.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminar Programme, Department of Veterinary Medicine series.

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