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Ants Give Us a Hint on The Genetics of Extending Lifespans

Ant mutation manipulation gene CRISPR control life span

Ants Give Us a Hint on The Genetics of Extending Lifespans

The Washington Post recently published an interesting article about how scientists have used the gene-editing technology called CRISPR to create “mutant ants” that behave differently because the scientists were able to turn off many of the ants olfactory genes.  What amazed me was that, almost as a side note, the article authors also note the scientists are also interested in “the way ants alter their longevity, in addition to sensory perception. Workers live to about seven months old. But workers that become pseudo-queens live for four years. That’s like one human twin living to age 85 and the other to age 550.”  They continued with this subject noting “Workers who become pseudo-queens turn back to workers once they’re exposed to queen pheromones. These former queens die within months. That means there must be a reversible genetic switch that controls the ant life span”.

I’m amazed that the authors of the article were so fascinated by the gene-editing ability to alter their social behavior but barely find it worth mentioning that the scientists have proven that there are very specific and identifiable genes that can control the longevity of the ants.  If that is true in one species then it seems likely that it would be true of others.

Perhaps scientists can look for similar genes in the human genome in an effort to extend human lifespan.



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Josiah Zayner with his Crispr gene-editing kit. Photograph: Courtesy Josiah Zayner / The ODIN

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