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NOVA scienceNOW: Aging

Program Overview


Scientists examine biological attributes that contribute to defying the odds and living a life that is much longer than expected.

This NOVA scienceNOW segment:

  • states that only about 1 in 10,000 people defies the odds and lives to be 100 years old.

  • studies centenarians and people older than 90 who were born at the turn of the 20th century, when life expectancy was 40 years, to learn about the factors involved in longevity.

  • explains that these individuals over 90 more easily overcome, or are resistant to, serious diseases that tend to strike in childhood and middle age.

  • explains that high levels and very large molecules of HDL, or "good" cholesterol, seem important to longevity.

  • reports that centenarians' genes were studied to look for commonalities among individuals and their differences from the general population.

  • describes experiments in which the food supply of yeast was cut, and the yeast lived about 50 percent to 60 percent longer than it normally would have.

  • relates yeast experiments involving a mutation, in one of a family of genes known as sirtuins, that boosts a DNA repair mechanism, causing the yeast to live about 50 percent longer than yeast that has the gene without the mutation.

  • presents experiments, using the roundworm C. elegans, in which a gene named Daph 2 was damaged, causing the roundworm's insulin level to decrease and its life span to increase.

  • points out that human longevity may be related to having genetic mutations that trigger an increase in DNA repair.

  • reports that red wine contains a chemical, resveratrol, that seems to stimulate the sirtuin genes and may foster human longevity.

  • states that having different variants of longevity genes may make some people resistant to age-related diseases.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
NOVA scienceNOW: Aging

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