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Pest test paves way for slowing human ageing

27th July 2007

Helping the fruit fly to live longer would not, you would think, be top of scientists' list of priorities.

However, a study of the fruit fly published in Nature Chemical Biology this week has led to the discovery of a protein which could potentially inhibit ageing in humans.

Richard Roberts, associate professor of chemistry, chemical engineering and biology at the University of Southern California, said the work was important for two reasons.

"First, it demonstrates that a single inhibitor can dramatically alter lifespan, a very complex trait. It is remarkable that you can alter it with a single genetic change," he said.

"We don't really need to make fruit flies live longer, but if we understand how to do this, our approach may have direct application to higher organisms, such as ourselves."

The second advantage, Roberts said, was "the possibility of developing a lot of new therapeutics".

The research describes a new method for blocking receptors involved in ageing and disease.

Flies with a blocked receptor lived on average 30 per cent longer, with no apparent side effects.