Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews


Print Page Follow BioNews on Twitter BioNews RSS feed

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook



King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter





Fatherless mice live longer

07 December 2009

By Dr Rebecca Robey

Appeared in BioNews 537

Mice produced in the laboratory from two biological mothers and without a father have been found to live significantly longer than normal mice bred from a mother and a father. These findings indicate that genetic traits inherited from the father but not the mother may play an important role in ageing and longevity.

Researchers from Saga University and Tokyo University of Agriculture, Japan, took DNA from eggs of one day-old mice and genetically modified it so that it would behave like sperm. They then used it to fertilise eggs from adult mice, thereby producing offspring with two mothers, dubbed bi-maternal mice. Control mice were bred that were genetically identical to the bi-maternal mice except that they had been conceived conventionally using genetic material from a sperm and an egg.

Professor Tomohiro Kono, who led the study, explained the researchers' goals: 'We have known for some time that women tend to live longer than men in almost all countries worldwide, and that these sex-related differences in longevity also occur in many other mammalian species... The study may give an answer to the fundamental questions: that is, whether longevity in mammals is controlled by the [genes] of only one or both parents, and just maybe, why women are at an advantage over men with regard to the lifespan.'

Reporting in the journal Human Reproduction, the researchers compared the lifespans of 13 bi-maternal mice with those of 13 control mice. On average, the bi-maternal mice lived for 841.5 days - 186 days longer than the control mice, which averaged 655.5 days. The researchers also found that the bi-maternal mice were significantly smaller and lighter than the control mice. There were also signs that the bi-maternal mice had better immune systems than the control mice, as they had higher numbers of eosinophils (a type of white blood cell that play an important role in protecting mammals against parasites and infections) in their blood.

The researchers believe that the effects they observed may result from a genetic process called 'imprinting' whereby the activity of a gene depends on whether it is inherited from the mother or the father. They suggest that a gene called Rasgrf1, found on chromosome 9, may be responsible for the increased lifespan and smaller weight of the bi-maternal mice.

Rasgrf1 is an imprinted gene that is always turned on when it is inherited from the father and always turned off when it is inherited from the mother. The bi-maternal mice had two inactive Rasgrf1 genes as they were both inherited from female mice instead of having the usual one active Rasgrf1 gene inherited from a father and one inactive Rasgrf1 gene inherited from a mother. However, Professor Kono emphasised: 'it's not clear whether Rasgrf1 is definitively associated with mouse longevity, but it is one of the strong candidates... we cannot eliminate the possibility that other, unknown genes that rely on their paternal inheritance to function normally may be responsible.'

Professor Kay-Tee Khaw, an expert in ageing at Cambridge University, commented to the BBC: 'These are interesting findings but I think any sex differences in longevity - which in humans have changed over time and differ in different environments - may have more complex explanations than any single gene'.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
How having two mothers may be the key to a longer lifespan
The Times | 02 December 2009
 
Key to long life is having two mothers but no father – if you're a mouse
The Scotsman | 01 December 2009
 
The Telegraph | 02 December 2009
 
BBC News | 02 December 2009
 
Daily Mail | 02 December 2009
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

27 February 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
Men may not be on the brink of extinction after all, according to a study on the evolution of the human Y chromosome. Previous research has suggested that the Y sex chromosome, carried only by men, is decaying genetically at such a rate that men would become extinct in five million years' time... [Read More]
25 July 2011 - by Rosemary Paxman 
Passive smoking may harm the DNA in sperm, a new study in mice has suggested. If the findings are replicated in humans, genetic defects linked to passive smoking could be passed on to children, the researchers advise.... [Read More]
27 June 2011 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
A saliva sample can determine a person’s age to within five years, according to research published in the journal PLoS One... [Read More]
23 May 2011 - by Mehmet Fidanboylu 
Scientists claim they have developed a blood test that can predict how fast a person is ageing. The test, developed in Spain, is set to be available in the UK soon.... [Read More]
16 May 2011 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
US researchers claim women who give birth to twins live longer than those who give birth to single babies. They speculate that the ability to successfully birth twins reflects a general biological robustness in the health of these women. A twin pregnancy is known to be more taxing on the mother's body and therefore was not thought to be biologically advantageous.... [Read More]

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to Login or Register to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

 


 

- click here to enquire about using this story.

Printer Friendly Page

Published by the Progress Educational Trust
RISK ASSESSMENT:
BREAST CANCER, PREDICTION AND SCREENING
FREE public event in central London, 6.30pm on Thursday 8 May 2014 - find out more HERE

ANNIVERSARY APPEAL
Please donate HERE, so that the Progress Educational Trust can continue throughout 2014 (and beyond) while keeping BioNews FREE for you to read

The Progress Educational Trust was shortlisted for the Charity Times Awards 2011

Advertise your products and services HERE - click for further details

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE, and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation