3 May 2013
Scientists believe they have found an area within the brain that controls the ageing process. In a series of experiments on mice, they found that changes to this region could shorten or lengthen the animal's lifespan. The study is published in the journal Nature.
Click to hear the report
The hypothalamus is a small structure located deep within the brain. It plays a critical role in controlling growth, reproduction and metabolism - but now it could hold the key to ageing too.
A team of scientists in the US looked at this region of the brain in mice. They found that blocking a chemical in this area increased the animals' lifespan. Healthy mice typically live for between 600 to 1000 days.
But the rodents in the study were living about a fifth longer without suffering problems that are common in old age, such as muscle loss or memory problems. Conversely, when the scientists boosted the substance in the hypothalamus, the animal's lifespan was shortened.
The researchers now want to fully understand the biological mechanism behind this process. They say the work could provide new insights into age-related diseases - and in the future even raise the prospect of drugs that could increase our lifespan.
Click here to hear the vocabulary
- a critical role
a very important part
the process of creating new life
how your body processes food to give energy and strength
time that it lives for
frequent, often occurring
in the opposite way
- biological mechanism
what happens inside the body, the way the body functions
- the prospect