The turquoise killifish, an African fish, may be the missing key against aging. As it was able to put its life on hold for several months, it became an object of study to find a possible application to fight aging in humans.
In Southern Africa, a fish with almost supernatural powers can be the solution against aging. The African turquoise killifish or Nothobranchius furzeri, found in lakes in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, has the ability to stop its development and remain so for several months to cope with excessive environmental pressure before resuming its life cycle as if nothing had happened. This is a technique that has attracted the attention of some scientists, particularly those at Stanford University, who have published their study in Science magazine and who want to adopt these mechanisms to the human body in order to stop aging.
A pause that is greater than its life expectancy
With yellow and red fins, this fish makes a diapause. This survival technique consists of entering a state of suspended animation, such as hibernation. Technically, this is made possible by a protein: CBX7. In vertebrates, it maintains the muscles and helps regulate the genes in the organs, but, produced in large quantities, it allows the fish to enter diapause. This forced pause has no effect on the future development of the fish, nor on their fertility or life expectancy.
When the killifish takes a break, as in a video game, it does so to survive. The lakes in which it lives only exist during the rainy season, so the rest of the time, when they are dry, it has to go in diapause. It has the ability to freeze the development of the embryo for a period that exceeds its life expectancy, which is estimated at three to six months. Once this diapause is over, the killifish resumes its normal development.
Slowing down aging
Researchers believe that the mechanisms of diapause may be applicable to humans. “It is believed that activating a diapause-like state in certain adult tissues or cells could help maintain them in the long term,” said Anne Brunet, co-author of the study to The Guardian. Just imagine a slowing down of our “chronological clock,” she added.
However, transfer of this process to humans still requires a lot of research. Professor Paul Shiels, an expert on biological aging at the University of Glasgow (UK), quoted by The Guardian, says that “the similarities between diapause and other types of suspended animation, such as hibernation, probably involve at least some different processes – not least because hibernation involves keeping organs in their adult form rather than stopping them from developing.