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'Garbage man' in cells could extend life

Published on May 7, 2013 6:20 AM

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A gene that acts like a garbage man to clean up old material in the cells boosted the life spans of fruit flies and may offer new paths in the fight against human ageing, US researchers said on Monday.

When researchers manipulated the neurons of fruit flies to contain higher levels of the gene, known as parkin, they lived 28 per cent longer and remained healthy, said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Just by increasing the levels of parkin, they live substantially longer while remaining healthy, active and fertile," said lead author Anil Rana, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"That is what we want to achieve in ageing research - not only to increase their life span but to increase their health span as well."  Parkin has been previously implicated in the development of Parkinson's disease.

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