A study showed that cold can extend life and promote healthy aging. The findings could help treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Low body temperature can help extend life. This has already been proven by numerous studies on many organisms, including cold-blooded animals such as fish and flies, but also on mammals.
For example, it has been observed in nematodes that lowering their body temperature from a cold 20 to 15 °C significantly extends their lifespan. The same applies to mice, where a decrease in body temperature of 0.5 °C had a clear effect. Studies have also shown the effect of hypothermia on aging in humans.
Fatal loss of nerve cells
The mechanism behind this was previously unclear. A team of researchers from the University of Cologne now offers a possible explanation.
On the one hand, they examined a nematode called Caenorhabditis elegans, and on the other hand, they cultured human cells. Both carried the genetic material for two neurodegenerative diseases – diseases of the nervous system caused by the gradual loss of nerve cells: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington’s disease.
These diseases usually develop with age. Harmful accumulations of protein deposits, so-called pathologic protein aggregations, are prominent.
Same results for worms and human cells
However, in their study published in the journal “Nature Aging,” the Cologne researchers describe that proteins that tend to clump together were shed by a cellular mechanism when the temperature dropped slightly—in both nematode worms and human cells. This prevented the buildup of protein deposits typical of ALS and Huntington’s disease.
The average human body temperature
In humans, normal body temperature is subject to certain fluctuations. While it is slightly higher at 37°C during the day, it can drop to 36°C during sleep. A study published in 2020 in the journal “eLife” also showed that the average human body temperature has decreased by about 0.6 degrees Celsius, that is, significantly, since the industrial revolution. The authors of the study, which was led by researcher Myroslava Protsiv of the Stanford University School of Medicine, believe the reasons include advances in hygiene and the control of infectious diseases.
Thus the analysis suggests that even a slight drop in body temperature can extend life. The participating scientists hope that promising new approaches can be developed from the findings for the treatment of age-related diseases.
Aging is the biggest risk factor for various diseases of the nervous system, in which protein clumping occurs. In addition to Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, these also include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
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