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Worms Control Lifespan at High Temperatures, UCSF Study Finds
Date:4/16/2009

The common research worm, C. elegans, is able to use heat-sensing nerve cells to not only regulate its response to hotter environments, but also to control the pace of its aging as a result of that heat, according to new research at the University of California, San Francisco.

(PRWEB) April 16, 2009 -- The common research worm, C. elegans, is able to use heat-sensing nerve cells to not only regulate its response to hotter environments, but also to control the pace of its aging as a result of that heat, according to new research at the University of California, San Francisco.

The new findings have turned upside down a widespread assumption about how cold-blooded animals respond to and regulate heat, the researchers say. The study is reported in the online early edition of the journal “Current Biology” and is available at http://www.cell.com/current-biology/home.

Researchers have known for years that cold-blooded animals, or ectotherms, go through life more quickly at high temperatures than at low temperatures, according to UCSF Professor Cynthia Kenyon, PhD, who was senior researcher on the paper.

At temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius and above, worms move, eat and digest food faster, mature faster and age faster than their counterparts at a more normal 20 degrees. The common assumption, she said, is that the accelerated aging process at higher temperatures occurred passively, in much the same way that a chemical reaction speeds up at higher temperatures.

“We’ve shown it’s not so simple,” said Kenyon, a professor in the UCSF Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and director of the Larry L. Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging at UCSF. She is renowned for her ongoing research on C. elegans (Caenorhabditis elegans) an
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