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Wrinkle in Time

Signs of ageing in the 'skin' of the C. elegans worm can be reduced by factors like diet or genetic mutations

24 March 2020

Wrinkle in Time

The tiny C. elegans worm is a model organism popular in studies ranging from nerve cell development to ageing. Now, researchers have used atomic force microscopy to capture highly detailed images of the worm’s cuticle – the equivalent to our skin – and on it performed highly sensitive stiffness measurements, the equivalent of testing our tissues’ ability to withstand external pressure during ageing. Like in humans, where wrinkles imply old age and the skin hangs loosely, in old worms, both the quality of the cuticle and stiffness of the worm decrease with age (young worm cuticle pictured top, old below). However, when worms were subjected to different diets, drugs and alterations to their genetics that could increase lifespan, not all led to a stiffer worm with ‘better skin’ – measures of extended healthspan. Ultimately, the work implies that for healthy ageing we may need separate interventions; one to increase longevity, and one to make sure we stay healthier for longer.

Read more about this research at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences here

Written by Sophie Arthur

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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