Scientists have found an anti-ageing treatment which doubles the life span of morning glory flowers. Most flowers age very quickly. Japanese morning glory flowers are among the most unlucky – they have only 13 hours before they start to die. They die due to a process of cellular senescence, which is also believed to be a major cause of human ageing.
Plant scientists found that a gene named EPHEMERAL1 controls petal senescence. When they suppressed EPHEMERAL1 expression in Japanese morning glory, the flowers lasted over 24 hours i.e. twice as long as untreated flowers.
A doubling of lifespan is a very exciting achievement in the ageing field. Before we get too excited, EPHEMERAL1 is a plant specific gene. Humans don’t have a homologous gene. But EPHEMERAL1 is a NAC transcription factor. These genes control development in the plant, plant hormones and programmed cell death. So this study, showing that inhibiting a developmental gene can delay ageing, supports the hypothesis that developmental genes may be involved in human ageing.