I recently met a scientist who gave me some food for thought on the subject. Sorry about the cliché, but honestly, he did. His name is Dr. Aric Rogers. He’s doing longevity research at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor and just received a $455,000 grant from the National Institute on Aging. It will allow him to continue studying the mechanisms in cells that govern longevity.
Scientists have known for years that by dramatically reducing calories people can live longer and delay or reduce the risk of many age-related diseases. Dr. Rogers discovered that when the diet is restricted, a regulatory mechanism called nonsense-medicated decay or NMD, which helps get rid of “molecular clutter,” also plays a critical role in extending life.
He conducted his research on a microscopic roundworm called C. elegans, which shares about half its genes with humans. If you feed roundworms bacteria (what they normally eat) that contain some genetic material you can knock down or reduce the function of any gene you want. Being able to do that elicits useful information. “We can see what a gene’s role is in growth and development, in longevity, or in mediating other aspects of health, say in disease models,” explained Dr. Rogers.