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Reduced body temperature extends lifespan in study from the Scripps Research Institute

"Our study shows it is possible to increase lifespan in mice by modest but prolonged lowering of core body temperature," said Bruno Conti, an associate professor at Scripps Research who led the study. "This longer lifespan was attained independent of calorie restriction."

Prior to this study, researchers had known that core body temperature and aging were related in cold-blooded animals. Scientists had also known that lifespan could be extended in warm-blooded animals by reducing the number of calories they consumed, which also lowered core body temperature. But the degree of calorie restriction needed to extend lifespan is not easy to achieve, even in mice.

Prior to the current study, critical questions about the relation between calorie restriction, core body temperature, and lifespan remained unanswered. Was calorie restriction itself responsible for longer lifespan, with reduced body temperature simply a consequence? Or was the reduction of core body temperature a key contributor to the beneficial effects of calorie restriction? Conti and colleagues wanted to find out.

To tackle the problem, the scientists decided to try to lower core body temperature directly, without restricting food intake. In cold-blooded animals, such as roundworms (C. elegans) and fruitflies (Drosophila), this task is straight-forward--core body temperature can be lowered simply by changing the temperature of the environment. But for warm-blooded animals, the task is much more challenging.

Conti and colleagues decided to focus their efforts on the preoptic area of the hypothalamus, a structure in the brain that acts as the body's thermostat and is crucial to temperature regulation. Just as holding something warm near the thermostat in a room can fool it into thinking that the entire room is hotter so that the air conditioning turns on, the Scripps Research team reasoned that they could reset the brain's thermostat by producing heat nearby.


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Contact: Keith McKeown
kmckeown@scripps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
2-Nov-2006


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