A study conducted by Jaime Ross, a neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute, US, suggests that the lifespan of a person is partly determined by the mitochondrial mutations he/she may inherit from the mother. These mutations can shorten the lifespan of a person by a third. During her study, Ross found that the mice that inherited mutant mitochondrial DNA showed an average lifespan of 100 weeks compared with 141 weeks for control mice. The shortened lifespan can be attributed to dysfunctional mitochondria that affect an offspring’s metabolism, leading to life-threatening complications at a later stage in its life. Ross’ breakthrough study can help in developing pharmaceutical or nutritional approaches that can prevent a woman from passing severely dysfunctional DNA mutations to her baby. Further studies are in progress to understand exactly how the DNA mutations affect longevity.
Read more in The Scientist.