Longer Life Through Sensory Deprivation

Science's STKE  21 Dec 1999:
Vol. 1999, Issue 13, pp. tw3
DOI: 10.1126/stke.1999.13.tw3

At least in worms, inhibition of insulin signaling or removal of the gonads causes increased life-span. Already neither of these sounded exactly like what we had in mind from the fountain of youth, and this week, hopes for a fulfilling immortality are being dealt another blow. Apfeld and Kenyon report that mutations in Caenorhabditis elegans that disrupt sensory signaling also cause the worms to live longer. The mechanism for the effects of sensory deprivation appears to be different from that coupled to loss of cells in the germ line because those two effects are additive. However, analysis of worms with mutations in both the sensory pathway and insulin signaling indicate that these pathways may interact. One possibility—favored by the authors—is that the sensory neurons signal through a ligand that interacts with the insulin receptor. It is presently unclear which of the signals sensed by the sensory cilia—such as temperature, touch, and odorants—are most important in the link to aging. Nevertheless, the results indicate that these animals sense cues in the environment that activate signaling mechanisms that ultimately control the life-span of the organism.

Apfeld, J., and Kenyon, C. (1999) Regulation of lifespan by sensory perception in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 402: 804-809. [Online Journal]