Study Finds Possible Way to Extend Human Life

January 16, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. lifespan /laɪfspæn/ (n.) – the average length of life of something
Example: Some worms have a short lifespan of around two to three weeks.       

2. genome /ˈdʒinoʊm/ (n.) – the complete genetic information of a living thing
Example: The human genome contains around 21,000 genes.   

3. insulin /ˈɪnsəlɪn/ (n.) – a hormone that reduces blood sugar levels
Example: A person who lacks insulin will have a very high blood sugar level. 

4. amplify /ˈæmpləˌfaɪ/ (v.) – to greatly increase
Example: The scientists discovered ways to amplify the human lifespan up to 500 years.     

5. equivalent /ɪˈkwɪvələnt/ (adj.) – equal in value or significance
Example: One inch is equivalent to 2.54 centimeters.


Read the text below.
Scientists believe that genetic tweaks may extend human lifespan to as much as 500 years.

A recent study found that two genetic mutations extended the lives of the worm C. elegans fivefold. C. elegans is the first animal to have its whole genome mapped, which makes it the suitable subject for ageing studies.

The study published in the journal Cell Reports involved insulin-signalling mutations and mutations in the Target of Rapamycin [RA-puh-MY-sin] (TOR) pathway. Rapamycin is a drug which helps the body accept donated organs.

Single mutations in the TOR pathway were known to extend the lifespan of C. elegans by 30 percent, while insulin-signalling mutations were known to double it. Together, the expected effect would have been a 130 percent increase in lifespan. However, the combined effect amplified lifespan even more. The worm’s lifespan extended by a factor of five or the human equivalent of 400 to 500 years.

Identifying single genes responsible for long lives has long been a challenge to scientists. But, lead researcher Dr. Pankaj Kapahi believes the interaction of the genes and not the single genes themselves cause long lives.

If the same genetic mutations can be applied to humans, the human lifespan may increase to as much as 500 years. Dr. Kapahi said researching for human life extension may take a long time. Nonetheless, this study is already a leap forward as it suggests the possibility of anti-ageing treatments based on genetic interactions.

Future research about this matter will probably involve mice to see if the same effects can be observed in mammals.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think humans can really live up to 500 years? Why or why not?
·         Do you agree that research should focus on extending the human lifespan? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         How can a person live a long and healthy life? Please explain your answer.
·         What could be the disadvantages if humans lived longer? Please explain.


January 16, 2014