[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
They say that older folks benefit from spending time with young people. And that’s not just an excuse to stick grandma at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving. Now scientists have found that, even in insects, seniors live longer when they socialize with the young. The researchers were studying fruit flies that, because of a particular mutation, have a drastically reduced lifespan. When those mutants live together in a Big Brother style fly dormitory they only last an average of 9 days. But the scientists found that when they allowed older mutants to share space with hip, young, wild-type flies, they survived nearly twice as long. The results appear in the May 27th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Old mutants who roomed with spry regular flies also dealt better with stress than their friends who bunked in the Mutant Only dorm. They withstood being overheated, dusted with paraquat, even shaken violently twice a day. By studying these flies, the researchers hope to identify any molecules responsible for this youth-associated lifespan extension. Then grandma won’t actually have to sit with the kiddies. She could pop a pill and stay spry while hanging with her peeps.