Animals show a large variability of lifespan, ranging from short-lived as Caenorhabditis elegans to immortal as Hydra. A fascinating case is flatworms, in which reversal of aging by regeneration is proposed, yet conclusive evidence for this rejuvenation-by-regeneration hypothesis is lacking. We tested this hypothesis by inducing regeneration in the sexual free-living flatworm Macrostomum lignano. We studied survival, fertility, morphology, and gene expression as a function of age. Here, we report that after regeneration, genes expressed in the germline are upregulated at all ages, but no signs of rejuvenation are observed. Instead, the animal appears to be substantially longer lived than previously appreciated, and genes expressed in stem cells are upregulated with age, while germline genes are downregulated. Remarkably, several genes with known beneficial effects on lifespan when overexpressed in mice and C. elegans are naturally upregulated with age in M. lignano, suggesting that molecular mechanism for offsetting negative consequences of aging has evolved in this animal. We therefore propose that M. lignano represents a novel powerful model for molecular studies of aging attenuation, and the identified aging gene expression patterns provide a valuable resource for further exploration of anti-aging strategies.
- Journal Article