Money for old mice
Competition seeks world's longest-lasting mouse.
A contest to produce the oldest laboratory mouse, and so help to unravel the mysteries of human ageing, is launched in Britain today.
Strategies that promote long life in rodents may lengthen our lives too, enthuses Methuselah Mouse Prize organizer Aubrey de Grey of the University of Cambridge, UK. The competition aims to encourage research and funding for anti-ageing interventions, he says.
The current titleholder, affectionately known as GHR-KO 11C, died just a week short of his fifth birthday - the equivalent of a human living for 150 years. "This could be extended by a considerable amount," says de Grey.
Successful scientists stand to win a share of the growing £20,000 (US$33,000) prize fund. Cash is awarded for each day that their animal survives after breaking the record.
GHR-KO 11C outlasted his normal peers by two years. Endocrinologist Andrzej Bartke, of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, altered a gene that controls responses to growth hormone. The change may have protected the animal's DNA from age-related decay.
Cutting calories is also known to extend lifespan and reduce age-related disease in rodents, although it is uncertain how this occurs. Wild mice live around 25% longer than their lab-based relatives - they may possess longevity genes that have been inadvertently bred out of lab-reared animals.
De Grey named the contest after Methuselah, the biblical character who is alleged to have lived for 969 years. Researchers can use any technique to boost longevity, including genetic manipulation and stem-cell therapy.
University of Michigan
"It's a worthy stunt," says Richard Miller, who studies ageing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "It draws attention to some very worthwhile research."
The competition will be launched today at a meeting of the International Association of Biomedical Gerontology in Cambridge. Entry is free, but competitors must belong to the species Mus musculus.