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A special diet improves growth and fertility of fruit flies with no cost to their lifespan

Posted March 15, 2017

Scientists can develop special diets that can speed up the development of the organism. They could do that for quite some time, but additional speed also meant a shorter lifespan. Not anymore, however, since now scientists from UCL have managed to create diets that can enhance growth and fertility with no costs to lifespan.

Flies often become a model for scientific research. Image credit: Botaurus via Wikimedia, Public Domain

The animals that they chose as models for this study are fruit flies. They are often chosen for genetic studies, because of how surprisingly similar they are to humans. Also, scientists know their genome very well. So the basic knowledge is this – dietary restriction extends lifespan and protects from age-related illnesses, but interferes with fertility and growth. There are diets that can do the opposite – increase growth, but reduce lifespan at the same time. Now scientists reached an interesting discovery – they calculated the amount of amino acids a fruit fly would need and developed a special diet, which based on the genome of the fruit flies.

This special diet builds upon previous researches. Scientists have managed to create a diet, which made flies grow faster and lay more eggs, but they lives significantly shorter. Now scientists created a special diet, which reflects this amino acid composition in each exome. Remarkably, flies on this diet eat less, grow faster and are more fertile. And, amazingly, live as long as flies on a conventional diet. Why is it important?

Scientists believe that a similar achievement could be made with mice. In the future scientists could expand the scope of their research into mice in order to see if this diet, adapted to the genome of the species, increases growth and fertility of mammals as well. In other words, at the end of this research scientists may have a special diet for people that will increase our fertility, body development without the cost in our lifespan.

Hopefully, scientists will manage to improve human health with a simple diet which will fit us perfectly. But until that is possible, scientists will have to know a lot more about our genome and what affects our lifespan the most. George Soultoukis, one of the authors of the study, said: “Understanding why we need amino acids in the amounts we do will be key, and such studies provide novel and powerful insights into the vital interactions between nature and nurture”.

This is just the very beginning of scientific efforts to create a genome-based diet, which would have no negative effects. Better growth, fertility and no cost for the lifespan is a goal worth pursuing. But it will take a lot of time until any breakthroughs can be made.


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