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expert reaction to study investigating lifespan, ageing, and gene expression in Caenorhabditis elegans nematode roundworm

Publishing in the journal eLife a group of scientists have investigated mechanisms of ageing in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans worm, reporting a process which regulates the effects of genes involved in ageing as well as treatments which could change this regulation to alter lifespan of the worm.


Prof. Tom Dening, Director of the Centre for Old Age and Dementia, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, said:

“These appear to be interesting results. However, it is difficult to know what, if any, relevance this has to humans. As the authors say, there is a big gap between roundworms and humans, and it would be foolish to make inferences about the different stages of life cycles in such different animals.

“I am not sure why the authors happened to be giving mianserin as the reason doesn’t seem to be stated. Mianserin has been licensed for many years as an antidepressant. It is however not often used as it is sedating and does, uncommonly, cause some dangerous blood disorders. Other antidepressants are used much more frequently. So far as I know, there is no evidence that it prolongs life expectancy, though I imagine this has never been systematically investigated.

“I certainly would not choose to take mianserin on the basis that I might live longer: I think the trade-off with sedation etc. would not be worth it.”


‘Suppression of transcriptional drift extends C. elegans lifespan by postponing the onset of mortality’ by Sunitha Rangaraju et al. published in eLife on Tuesday 1 December 2015.


Declared interests

Prof. Tom Dening declares that he has no relevant interests.

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