Retrotransposons: How genetic parasites make us age faster

Genetic parasites called retrotransposons become more active as we age, and an animal study suggests this may trigger immune responses that shorten our lifespans

Health


December 21, 2022

DNA

Illustration of DNA

MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Alamy

Genetic “parasites” known as retrotransposons become more active in all kinds of animals as they age, and this increased activity shortens lifespans. Now, an animal study has shown this aging effect isn’t a result of mutations to the genome as previously thought, but could be a result of the parasite activity triggering an immune response.

Understanding exactly how these chunks of parasitic DNA shorten lifespans could lead to ways to extend human lives. “But this is very far down the road,” says Blair Schneider at the Albert Einstein …

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