AUG 18, 2020 7:50 AM PDT

How Dolphins Could Help Us Live Longer

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Dolphins are helping scientists answer the age-old question: can we stop the clock when it comes to aging? A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes some potential breakthroughs in the field of aging science, in an investigation that used some unlikely subjects — US Navy dolphins. 

While a myriad of factors including diet, genetics, and lifestyle can influence human aging, this particular group of dolphins was particularly valuable to the researchers leading the study. Unlike dolphins in the wild, this group lived under unique circumstances, where environmental influencers of aging were tightly controlled.

The lead author of the study, Stephanie Venn-Watson is the co-founder and CEO of Epitracker, a life sciences company that has over 20 years of experience in uncovering the parallels between both dolphin and human health.

Why dolphins? Like us, these mammals also develop conditions associated with aging such as chronic inflammation, high cholesterol levels, and even neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

"These similarities support that dolphins and humans share similar aging-related mechanisms," said Venn-Watson.

The research team uncovered a panel of four blood biomarkers that can serve as a measure of the rate of aging. These include hemoglobin (a protein that transports oxygen in red blood cells), immune cells called lymphocytes, platelets, and a liver enzyme, alkaline phosphatase. 

Importantly, by using these biomarkers as a metric, the scientists were able to identify two distinct groups of dolphins within the population of over 140 animals — the slow agers and the fast agers.

"While it has long been believed that some people age faster than others, it has been difficult to prove that people indeed age at different rates," said Venn-Watson, highlighting the potential implications of these results in humans.

Of these four biomarkers, the quantities of hemoglobin and lymphocytes decline over time. In those that have a genetic predisposition for accelerated aging, these numbers decline sharply, putting both dolphins and humans at an elevated risk of anemia and life-threatening infections.

According to Venn-Watson, clinical interventions to boost dwindling numbers of these biomarkers could be the key to keeping us healthier for longer.

"We hope our study may help physicians and longevity researchers prioritize clinically relevant indices in older people, including declining hemoglobin and lymphocytes," Venn-Watson says, "to not only prevent and treat anemia and declining immunity but possibly to help delay aging rates as well."


Sources: Epitracker, Inverse, PNAS.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
MAR 14, 2021
Immunology
How Are Allergies Developed?
MAR 14, 2021
How Are Allergies Developed?
You might have experienced it yourself or met someone that can not eat a certain food or can not take a specific medicat ...
MAR 25, 2021
Immunology
The Immune System Impairs Antibiotic Effectiveness
MAR 25, 2021
The Immune System Impairs Antibiotic Effectiveness
Nitric oxide, a molecule produced by the immune system, can negatively impact antibiotics’ effectiveness, says a s ...
APR 16, 2021
Microbiology
A New Kind of COVID-19 Vaccine
APR 16, 2021
A New Kind of COVID-19 Vaccine
The current COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Modern are based on messenger RNA, which cells use to make proteins ...
APR 19, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Insight Into the Molecular Basis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
APR 19, 2021
Insight Into the Molecular Basis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
New research has shown how variants in an immune gene can lead to a high risk of developing the autoimmune disorder rheu ...
APR 27, 2021
Immunology
Breakthrough Malaria Vaccine Is a Ray of Hope
APR 27, 2021
Breakthrough Malaria Vaccine Is a Ray of Hope
University of Oxford scientists have developed a vaccine against malaria, which they describe as having “unprecede ...
JUN 03, 2021
Immunology
Inhalable Anti-COVID Nanobodies Show Promising Results in Hamsters
JUN 03, 2021
Inhalable Anti-COVID Nanobodies Show Promising Results in Hamsters
Nanobodies are small fragments of monoclonal antibodies that from a therapeutic perspective are more stable and cheaper ...
Loading Comments...