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Mammalian Study Links Lifespan Extension to Signals in Subset of mTOR Pathway Genes

In a paper appearing in BMC Genomics, a Nanjing Normal University team takes a look at the mTOR pathway and its potential role in extending lifespan in certain mammalian species such as bowhead whales or African elephants. By analyzing sequences for 72 genes from the human mTOR signaling network together with longevity-associated phenotypes in four dozen mammalian species spanning 14 orders, the investigators flagged 20 genes with distinct evolutionary signals in species that are especially long-lived — a set that included genes previously implicated in cancer, age-related disease, and autophagy processes involved in breaking down damaged or dysfunctional parts of the cell. "Though [the] mammalian/mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway is shown as a central regulator of lifespan and aging, the underlying influence of [the] mTOR pathway on the evolution of lifespan in mammals is not well understood," the researchers write, noting that the latest results highlighted genes with "significant evolutionary signals unique to long-lived species, which provided new insights into the lifespan extension of mammals and might bring new strategies to extend human lifespan.