The telomeres at the ends of chromosomes of one bat don't shorten with age, potentially shedding light on why it is so long lived, Reuters reports.
Researchers from University College Dublin and elsewhere captured four species of wild bats of known ages from various sites across Europe to collect tissue and DNA samples. As they report in Science Advances this week, the researchers determined the length of the bats' telomeres using a qPCR assay. They then modeled the relationship between telomere length and age in the different species. For two of the species — Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and Miniopterus schreibersii — they found that the bats' telomeres shortened with age.
But for the two bats from the long-lived Myotis genus, they did not observe a relationship between telomere length and age. When they examined the bats' blood, the researchers noted that telomerase wasn't present and that 21 telomere maintenance genes were differentially expressed. They further reported that the DNA repair genes ATM and SETX appeared to be under selection in the bats.
"[Bats] have naturally evolved longer health spans," author Emma Teeling tells Inverse. "Therefore studying bats in an aging context and assessing the molecular changes that occur in these individuals that let [them] slow down predicted aging will give us a novel insight into how humans can to this."