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Oldest living whale's genome could unlock the secret to living longer

Is there something in the water keeping bowhead whales, the world's longest-living mammals, alive for over 200 years? As it turns out, the whale's Fountain of Youth powers hail from their genes, not their environment.

Researchers at the Liverpool Centre for Genomics Research mapped the whale's entire genome, and discovered two unique genes responsible for its long lifespan. The implications could help humans live longer, healthier lives.

The study, completed in two separate parts, compared the bowhead whale's genome with that of a minke whale, a species that typically lives 30 to 50 years. In doing so, scientists were able to identify two genes, ERCC1 and PCNA, in the bowhead whales that showed unique mutations. ERCC1 is thought to repair DNA, increase cancer resistance and slow aging; the PCNA gene is also linked to DNA repair.

Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, the lead researcher of the study at Liverpool University, seeks funding for a project in which scientists would insert the two genes into mice to see if it affects their resistance to disease, and improve their lifespan, The Sunday Times reports. If that goes well, Magalhaes hopes to begin experimenting with the genes in humans.