Can an enzyme cheat the Grim Reaper?

THE ageing process may have an Achilles heel, researchers say. Gabrielle Boulianne of the University of Toronto and her colleagues report that they have increased the lifespan of fruit flies by 40 per cent by making them produce the human enzyme superoxide dismutase or SOD in their motor neurons (Nature Genetics, vol 19, p 171). SOD inactivates oxygen radicals, byproducts of metabolism long suspected to cause the cellular damage that leads to ageing. The results suggest that motor neurons are a weak link in the fly’s defence against free radicals—and the same may be true for humans. Boulianne says SOD is widespread in animals. “Now we know that it can have a profound effect on longevity by acting in only a few cells,
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