The way worm mothers provide milk for their young ‘could reveal key to slowing human ageing’, researchers suggest | Science & Tech News


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Worm mothers have been found to sacrifice themselves to provide milk for their young, according to a new study.

As the mothers age, they secrete a milk-like fluid that is consumed by their offspring, according to experts from the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing.

Scientists suggest the discovery about the biology of ageing in the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, shows both a selfless and sacrificial act.

Lead author Professor David Gems said: “We have now explained a unique self-destructive process seen in nematode worms.

“It is both a form of primitive lactation, which only a few other invertebrates have been shown to do, and a form of reproductive suicide, as worm mothers sacrifice themselves to support the next generation.”

Most of the one millimetre-long transparent roundworms have both male and female reproductive organs, and the mothers reproduce by fertilising themselves with limited stocks of self-sperm.

When these run out, within days of sexual maturity, reproduction stops.

After this, the creatures behave in a way that has puzzled scientists for some time – they generate large quantities of yolk-rich fluid which accumulates in large pools inside their bodies.

However, the fluid destructively consumes the internal organs in the process.

The worms also lay more than their own body weight in unfertilised eggs.

Previously researchers assumed the changes were pointless and represented some form of old-age disease state.

First author Dr Carina Kern, from the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing, said: “The worms are destroying themselves in the process of transferring nutrients to their offspring.

“And all those unfertilised eggs are full of milk, so they are acting like milk bottles to help with milk transport to feed baby worms.”

She added that the existence of worm milk revealed “a new way that C. elegans maximise their evolutionary fitness” when they cannot reproduce anymore, with the worms opting to “melt down their own tissues in order…



Source : skynews


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