Wise Old Tortoise

The secret to a long, healthy life? Ask a tortoise!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Lonesome George was a tortoise who passed away in twenty twelve — at a SPRY one hundred years old. Seriously, one hundred is young for a tortoise! Some have lived to be over one hundred and fifty! But HOW do tortoises keep fit through old age?

Víctor Quesada, a biologist at Universidad de Oviedo] in Spain, and colleagues investigated George’s D-N-A. Their goal? Finding clues to why reptiles live so long.

As we age, our chances of getting tumors and cancer increase. There’s a gene that directs the immune system to attack abnormal cells. Humans have it. But our old friend George? He had TWELVE COPIES!

The extra copies of the gene may prevent tumor growth. This research suggests that tortoises may have evolved stronger defenses against cancer.

These findings can tell us a lot about aging and cancer prevention!

So thanks, Lonesome George! There might be something to that whole “slow and steady wins the race” idea…