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Surprising bat genetic trait holds secrets of longevity

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Bats are the longest-lived mammals relative to body size, and a species called the greater mouse-eared bat lives especially long. Researchers now have unlocked some of this bat’s longevity secrets, with hints for fighting the effects of aging in people.

Scientists said on Wednesday that unlike in people and most other animals, in this bat species the structures called telomeres located at the end of chromosomes, thread-like strands inside a cell’s nucleus that carry genes determining heredity, do not shorten with age.

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Only 19 mammal species are longer-lived than humans relative to body size. Eighteen of them are bats, some living more than four decades. The other is a weird African rodent called a naked mole rat.

The researchers identified two genes in the greater mouse-eared bat that may be responsible for its unique longevity adaptation. These mechanisms could be the focus of future studies on aging, with an eye toward extending healthy lifespans in people, the researchers said.

Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that shorten each time a cell divides. This drives the natural aging process, leading to a breakdown of cells that over time can drive tissue deterioration and eventually death.

“Studying exceptionally long-living mammals that have naturally evolved mechanisms to fight aging is an alternative way to identify the molecular basis of extended ‘health spans,'” said biologist Emma Teeling of University College Dublin in Ireland, one of the study leaders. “Bats are an exciting new model species that will enable us to identify new molecular mechanisms that drive healthy aging.”

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The researchers studied 493 individual bats from four species: the greater mouse-eared bat and Bechstein’s bat, both members of the bat genus called Myotis; the greater horseshoe bat; and the common bent-wing bat. Of these, the greater mouse-eared bat had the longest lifespan, about 37 years.

The greater mouse-eared bat and the closely related Bechstein’s bat had telomeres that did not shorten with age, suggesting that Myotis bats share this characteristic. Another Myotis bat, Brandt’s bat, holds the bat longevity record of 41 years. 

Based on body size, the greater mouse-eared bat would be predicted to have a maximum lifespan of four years. Its range spans from Western Europe into the Middle East. It preys on large, ground-dwelling creatures like beetles, crickets and spiders.

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The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)


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Trump orders ‘substantial increase’ in Iran sanctions over Saudi oil field attack

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U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to "substantially increase sanctions" imposed on Iran, amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.

He did not give details on the move, which follows weekend attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that some U.S. officials blamed on Iran. Iran has denied those allegations.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed responsibility for the strikes on a Saudi oil field and the world's largest crude processing plant. The attacks disrupted global oil supplies.

Saudi Arabia has said oil production would be fully recovered by the end of the month.

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Not for courts to decide parliament suspension: UK PM’s lawyer

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson's lawyer told Britain's Supreme Court on Wednesday that it was not for judges to intervene over his decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to Brexit.

In the second of three days of highly-charged arguments, James Eadie told the country's top court that parliament had been considering Britain's exit from the European Union for years.

He argued that if MPs had needed more time, they had the opportunity to say before Johnson suspended their sitting earlier this month, barely weeks before Brexit is due to take place on October 31.

Eadie said that any suggestion that Johnson's motives were improper in proroguing, or suspending parliament, were "unsustainable".

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Here’s what really went down with Trump’s Taliban peace talks misadventure

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Donald Trump is not known for finessing foreign policy but for years prior to his election and during his campaign, he was mostly right about Afghanistan. He called it a “total disaster,” said it was “wasting our money” and that we should leave “immediately.”

It seemed that Trump understood the timeless – if sometimes historically inaccurate - tropes about Afghanistan being the “graveyard of empires” and home to “ungovernable” tribesmen who could outwit and humiliate the British, the Soviets – and us.

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