According to new research, there may be a surprisingly effective way for men to increase their lifespans — but it requires a pretty severe alteration to the physical body that may not appeal to everybody.
An international team led by researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand were able to show that castration of male sheep delays the aging of DNA, and the same principles could apply to humans as well.
“Both farmers and scientists have known for some time that castrated male sheep live on average much longer than their intact counterparts; however, this is the first time anyone has looked at DNA to see if it also ages slower,” said Victoria Sugrue, a researcher at the University of Otago and lead author of a paper about the research published in the journal eLife, in a statement.
The study is a testament to the development of tools that illuminate the rate at which DNA ages. In fact, thanks to cutting edge research, we are now able to estimate the age of humans and other creatures by looking only at their DNA.
“We developed a way to measure biological age in a broad range of mammals — we have looked at over 200 species so far and discovered surprising commonality in which animals age,” said study co-author Steve Horvath, professor from the University of California in Los Angeles, in the statement. “But the sheep study was unique in that it specifically isolated the effects of male hormones on aging.”
Horvath invented the “epigenetic clock,” a biochemical genetic test that can be used to measure age. The test shows the levels of methylation, a biological process that has been found to be key to aging.
“We found that males and females have very different patterns of DNA aging in sheep; and that despite being male, the castrates [wethers] had very feminine characteristics at specific DNA sites,” said Tim Hore, research team co-leader and lecturer at Otago, in the statement.
The same findings, the scientists said, could also be applied to humans.
“Interestingly, those sites most affected by castration also bind to receptors of male hormones in humans at a much greater rate than we would expect by chance,” Hore said. “This provides a clear link between castration, male hormones and sex-specific differences in DNA aging.”
While scientists aren’t going to start recommending for men to get castrated any time soon — or ever, for that matter — the research could allow farmers to identify sheep that will live longer and more productive lives.
In fact, a sheep in New Zealand called “Shrek” managed to grow almost 60 pounds of fleece and lived to an age of 16, well above the average maximum age of ten years. And you guessed it, Shrek was a castrated male.
READ MORE: Castration delays DNA aging [Allen Institute]
More on DNA aging: Scientists Suspect This Drug Can Actually Delay Aging
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