African killifish may hold key to stopping ageing in humans

The Guardian –

The curious ability of the African turquoise killifish to press pause on its development could have intriguing implications for human ageing, say researchers.

Certain creatures, including the killifish, can put themselves into suspended animation as an embryo – a trait known as diapause. The phenomenon is thought to have evolved in response to pressures such as seasonal changes in the environment – for example ponds drying up – or sudden challenges that pose a risk to the creatures. In other words, diapause allows the animal to put its development or birth on ice until conditions improve.

In the case of the African turquoise killifish, this means that embryos can pause their development for months or even years – longer than their adult lifetime of about four to six months. Scientists say the trait is likely to be linked to annual droughts.

“We actually don’t think the mechanism of diapause is directly caused by drought,” said Prof Anne Brunet, co-author of the research from Stanford University. “But the mechanism is indirectly linked to drought in the sense that drought provided a selective pressure for this African turquoise killifish species: over millions of years of evolution, the African killifish evolved to survive drought by having its embryos enter a state of diapause.”

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