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Longevity Briefs: The Fish that gets Younger with Age

Posted on 29 April 2021

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Different species age at different rates.

Dolania americana, a species of mayfly, for instance, only lives for about a day in its adult form. Whereas, Harriet, the longest-lived Galapagos tortoise, lived to an age of 176 years. Yet even Harriet’s ability to stave off the years pales in comparison to some organisms.

Harriet the Galapagos tortoise with owners, Steve and Terri Irwin. Harriet was originally collected by the Galapagos Islands by Charles Darwin and was estimated to be 176 years old. Source: Australia Zoo

The hydra is a very simple freshwater species, they are only about a centimeter along and first came to the attention of scientists for their remarkable powers of regeneration. If you chop a bit off of a hydra, you end up with two hydra, the hydra you started with, and the little piece you chopped off will grow into a whole new hydra.

The freshwater Hydra. Source: Interesting Engineering

Upon further inspection, it was also found that these organisms did not seem to age. They were said to have ‘negligible senescence’, in other words, their chance of dying does not increase as they grow chronologically older.

What did the researchers do: In a study recently published in Nature, researchers have discovered that Bigmouth buffalo fish (Ictiobus cyprinellus), a species of freshwater bony fish, share this same property. The aim of the investigation was to explore the potential relationship between age and multiple physiological systems including: telomere length, stress levels and immune function in individuals ranging in age from 2 to 99 years old.

The bigmouth buffalo fish. Source: GLANSIS

Key takeaway(s) from this research: The researchers found that when they compared the old fish to the young fish, there was no evidence of age-related decline of these physiological systems. Not only were the older fish just as healthy as their younger counterparts, but they were objectively healthier, appearing less stressed and possessing a more functional immune system.

Further research into the mechanisms which bestow this incredible ability to resist age will help expand our understanding of the fundamentals of the ageing process, and will hopefully lead us to, someday, being able to recreate this phenomenon in humans.

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