As we have all commonly seen, the average age of people who have died naturally throughout history and worldwide has been roughly 80. However, since ancient times, people have questioned why death usually occurs at this age, while it often lasts much longer for other animals and beings.
According to a recent study published in Nature journal by the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, the speed of genetic damage may be why each species has a set lifetime. DNA errors that cause long-term harm to the DNA are typically the cause of genetic mutations.
In addition, the study also revealed that slowing down the speed of DNA mutations in different types of animals allows them to live longer. This is because the rate at which DNA mutations arise is determined not by the size of an organism but by the fundamental genetics by which they were created.
A previous study of experts suggested that size was the key to longevity. This is because the creature must use more energy as it grows larger. After all, it must replace more cells as the organism's genes weaken over time.
According to the new study, this is not the case because giraffes have a life expectancy of around 24 years and mole rats have a life expectancy of about 25 years. So, even though the giraffe is arguably 1000 times larger than the mole rat, they both have a similar lifespan.
This demonstrates that the rate at which DNA mutates is more important than size.
When researchers compared the mutation rates of the two animals listed above, they found that they were almost identical. The giraffe experiences 99 mutations annually, whereas the mole rat experiences 93.
Meanwhile, mice, on the other hand, experience 796 mutations a year, which could explain an average life of 3.7 years.
Even considering natural causes of death, a person's average lifetime is around 83.6 years. This is because we only experience 47 mutations a year, which is the reason why humans live considerably longer than other species. For example, in this theory, mathematics predicts that a mouse will live as long as we do if it experiences the same number of mutations annually.
We would live far longer if researchers could one day find a technique to reduce the number of mutations we experience annually. However, it depends on our lifestyle choices and how much we care about both our physical and mental health, in addition to our bodies' capacity for a given amount of time.
Dr. Alex Cagan, the first author of the study, said: "To find a similar pattern of genetic changes in animals as different from one another as a mouse and a tiger was surprising.
"But the study's most exciting aspect must be finding that lifespan is inversely proportional to the somatic mutation rate. This suggests that somatic mutations may play a role in aging."
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