Ten years into research they call "exhaustive," scientists at the University of Washington and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging are reporting in the journal Cell Metabolism that they've isolated 238 genes linked to aging in yeast cells. After working with undergrads to painstakingly delete a single gene from each of 4,698 yeast strains, they say that when any of these 238 genes are not present, the yeast's life span goes up—and that 189 of these genes hadn't before been linked to aging. One gene, LOS1, produced "particularly stunning results," the institute reports—deleting LOS1 alone helped extend life span by 60%. LOS1 is influenced by a genetic "master switch" that's already associated with reduced caloric intake; switching it off seems to mimic the positive health benefits of fasting.
Will these findings in yeast have any bearing on humans? "Almost half of the genes we found that affect aging are conserved in mammals," says lead author Dr. Brian Kennedy. "In theory, any of these factors could be therapeutic targets to extend healthspan. What we have to do now is figure out which ones are amenable to targeting." The findings come on the heels of research out of the University of Southern California finding that a five-day-a-week diet designed to mimic fasting with an up to 50% reduction in caloric intake also slows aging, improves the immune system, and reduces heart disease and cancer, reports the Telegraph. (This test can predict when you'll die.)