What can lemurs tell us about about longevity?

Melody Winnig and Steve Charlap alerted us to this valuable new article:

Clues to aging from long-lived lemurs

Researchers combed through more than 50 years of medical records on hundreds of lemurs for clues to their longevity. They found that how long these primates live and how fast they age correlates with the amount of time they spend in a state of suspended animation known as torpor. The research may eventually help scientists identify ‘anti-aging’ genes in humans.

Jonas, the world’s oldest known dwarf lemur, died this January just months shy of his 30th birthday. Duke researchers are using lemurs like Jonas to study the biology of aging.

When Jonas the lemur died in January, just five months short of his thirtieth birthday, he was the oldest of his kind. A primate called a fat-tailed dwarf lemur, Jonas belonged to a long-lived clan. Dwarf lemurs live two to three times longer than similar-sized animals.

In a new study, Duke University researchers combed through more than 50 years of medical records on hundreds of dwarf lemurs and three other lemur species at the Duke Lemur Center for clues to their exceptional longevity.

The conventional wisdom in longevity research is that smaller species live shorter lives than larger ones. For example, humans and whales can live to be over 100; yet the average lab mouse doesn’t live beyond its third birthday.

The researchers found an exception to this pattern in a group of hamster-sized lemurs with a physiological quirk — they are able to put their bodies in standby mode.
How long the animals live and how fast they age correlates with the amount of time they spend in a state of suspended animation known as torpor, the data show. Hibernating lemurs live up to ten years longer than their non-hibernating cousins.

Dwarf lemurs like Jonas were the most extreme examples in their study, spending up to half the year in deep hibernation in the wild. Dwarf lemurs go into a semi-hibernation state for three months or less in captivity, “but even that seems to confer added longevity,” said study co-author Sarah Zehr, a researcher at the Duke Lemur Center.
Hibernating dwarf lemurs can reduce their heart rate from 200 to eight beats per minute. Breathing slows, and the animals’ internal thermostat shuts down. Instead of maintaining a steady body temperature, they warm up and cool down with the outside air.

“Everything gets slower,” Zehr said

For most primates such vital statistics would be life-threatening, but for lemurs, they’re a way to conserve energy during times of year when food and water are in short supply.
Hibernating lemurs not only live longer, they also stay healthier. While non-hibernators are able to reproduce for roughly six years after they reach maturity, hibernators continue to have kids for up to 14 years after maturity, the researchers found.

Although all species they examined suffered from cataracts and other age-related eye diseases as they got older, the hibernators managed to stave off symptoms until much later in life.
Some researchers have suggested that hibernators live longer and stay healthier simply because they avoid predators who may be looking for a snack. A lemur is much less likely to be eaten when it is curled up underground or snoozing in a tree.

“But the fact that we see the same pattern in captivity, where they’re protected from predators, suggests that other factors are at work,” Zehr said.
It may also be that torpor increases longevity by protecting cells against the buildup of oxidative damage that is a normal by-product of breathing and metabolism, said study co-author Marina Blanco.
“If your body is not ‘working full time’ metabolically-speaking, you will age more slowly and live longer,” Blanco said.
Because lemurs are more closely related to humans than mice are, the research may eventually help scientists identify “anti-aging” genes in humans.

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Journal Reference:
1. M. B. Blanco, S. M. Zehr. Striking longevity in a hibernating lemur. Journal of Zoology, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/jzo.12230

Johnny

John M. “Johnny” Adams
Executive Director Gerontology Research Group
JAdams@grg.org
(650) 265-4969
(949) 922-9786 cell
~~~~
CEO / Exec. Director
Carl I. Bourhenne Medical Research Foundation / Aging Intervention Foundation
http://www.AgingIntervention.org
http://www.AgingIntervention.org/JohnnyAdamsBackgroundSummary.htm

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About Johnny Adams

My full-time commitment is to slow and ultimately reverse age related functional decline to increase healthy years of life. I’ve been active in this area since the 1970s, steadily building skills and accomplishments. I have a good basic understanding of the science of aging, and have many skills that complement those of scientists so they can focus on science to advance our shared mission. Broad experience Top skills: administration, management, information technology (data and programming), communications, writing, marketing, market research and analysis, public speaking, forging ethical win-win outcomes among stakeholders (i.e. high level "selling"). Knowledge in grant writing, fundraising, finance. Like most skilled professionals, I’m best described as a guy who defines an end point, then figures out how to get there. I enjoy the conception, design, execution and successful completion of a grand plan. Executive Director Gerontology Research Group (GRG). Manages Email discussion forum, web site, meetings and oversees supercentenarian (oldest humans, 110+ years) research. CEO / Executive Director Carl I. Bourhenne Medical Research Foundation (Aging Intervention Foundation), an IRS approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit. http://www.AgingIntervention.org Early contributor to Supercentenarian Research Foundation. Co-Founder Geroscience Healthspan Forum. Active contributor to numerous initiatives to increase healthy years of life. Co-authored book on conventional, practical methods available today to slow the processes of aging – nutrition, exercise, behavior modification and motivation, stress reduction, proper supplementation, damage caused by improper programs, risk reduction and others. Fundamental understanding of, and experience in the genomics of longevity (internship analyzing and curating longevity gene papers). Biological and technical includes information technology, software development and computer programming, bioinformatics and protein informatics, online education, training programs, regulatory, clinical trials software, medical devices (CAT scanners and related), hospital electrical equipment testing program. Interpersonal skills – good communication, honest, well liked, works well in teams or alone. Real world experience collaborating in interdisciplinary teams in fast paced organizations. Uses technology to advance our shared mission. Education: MBA 1985 University of Southern California -- Deans List, Albert Quon Community Service Award (for volunteering with the American Longevity Association and helping an elderly lady every other week), George S. May Scholarship, CA State Fellowship. BA psychology, psychobiology emphasis 1983 California State University Fullerton Physiological courses as well as core courses (developmental, abnormal etc). UCLA Psychobiology 1978, one brief but fast moving and fulfilling quarter. Main interest was the electrochemical basis of consciousness. Also seminars at the NeuroPsychiatric Institute. Other: Ongoing conferences, meetings and continuing education. Aging, computer software and information technology. Some molecular biology, biotech, bio and protein informatics, computer aided drug design, clinical medical devices, electronics, HIPAA, fundraising through the Assoc. of Fundraising Professionals. Previous careers include: Marketing Increasing skill set and successes in virtually all phases, with valuable experience in locating people and companies with the greatest need and interest in a product or service, and sitting across the table with decision makers and working out agreements favorable to all. Information Technology: Management, data analysis and programming in commercial and clinical trials systems, and bioinformatics and protein informatics. As IT Director at Newport Beach, CA based technology organization Success Family of Continuing Education Companies, provided online software solutions for insurance and financial professionals in small to Fortune 500 size companies. We were successful with lean team organization (the slower moving competition was unable to create similar software systems). Medical devices: At Omnimedical in Paramount CA developed and managed quality assurance dept. and training depts. for engineers, physicians and technicians. Designed hospital equipment testing program for hospital services division. In my early 20’s I was a musician, and studied psychology and music. Interned with the intention of becoming a music therapist. These experiences helped develop valuable skills used today to advance our shared mission of creating aging solutions.
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