Survival mode that protects cells when oxygen is low also slows aging

A biochemical pathway that helps keep cells alive when oxygen is low also plays a role in longevity and resistance against some diseases of old age, according to a report to be published April 16 in the journal Science.

A cell’s protective reaction to a drop in oxygen is called the hypoxic response. Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have found that nematode worms live longer if their genetic make-up permits their cells to turn on the hypoxic response under normal oxygen conditions.

Not only do these worms live longer, the researchers noted, their cells are relatively free from the toxic proteins that accumulate and clump together as an animal ages.

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