Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Studying bats will help us live to 1000

Dr. Aubrey De Grey, specialist in biomedical gerontology (study of ageing) has been quoted “humans could live to 1000 years old”. His research has investigated the ageing process in numerous animals and insects such as the short lived, flies and long lived, tortoises. He suggests that the ageing process is closely linked to the age of sexual maturity and that this is part of the process of evolution. The longer it takes to mature, the better it is for the species to live as long as possible. This is a feature usually found in larger creatures such as elephants, apes and humans. Generally longevity is the preserve of larger creatures.

There are exceptions. The hydra, a small aquatic worm, reaches maturity in three days but can live four to five years. And surprisingly the bat. We know that this varies from species to species, but some bats can reach maturity in one year and live possibly as much as 40 years. If we were to apply a similar maturity-lifespan ratio to humans we could expect a life of 480 years.

On BBC Radio4’s Questions Questions, Dr. Aubrey De Grey said there is “excitement & interest” regarding bats and gerontology. Their long life span is exceptional for a small mammal, especially considering their very high metabolic rate. Similar small mammals such as mice or the shrew reproduce at a young age and in great numbers, making up for their short life. If there is an identifiable factor that can be that can be attributed to bats longevity, this may be of great importance to medical treatment of humans.

First published in the Autumn 08 Newsletter.

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