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Aging studies use C. elegans to test bacterial genes

Interesting data using C. elegans for studying the impact your gut microbiome may have on your lifespan and healthspan coming out of the Wang Lab at Baylor College of Medicine. Microbial Genetic Composition Tunes Host Longevity, published recently in the journal Cell, outlines a study where a large gene deletion library of E. coli was fed to C. elegans worms and the impact of the genetically modified E. coli diet was monitored for both lifespan and protection from Alzheimer’s. Bottom line – success!

What we love most about this study is how it highlights the power of C. elegans as a tool for whole animal discovery – the work would have been impossible to carry out using cultured cells and would have been prohibitively expensive in mice (> 4,000 mice kept for over 2 years).

Of course, the mind can not help but wander to what the next steps of the study will be. They identified 29 genes that, when deleted in the E. coli, extended the life of the worm – do combinations of these knock-outs increase lifespan further? Does the worm develop slower or just live longer? Can directed evolution be used to find even better C. elegans/ E. coli pairings to allow an even greater extension of lifespan?

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