Why Women Outlive Men: Fruit Flies Give Clues

THURSDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) — New research reveals that
mutations to the DNA of the mitochondria cause men to age faster than
women — a finding that may explain why women, on average, outlive

The researchers from Monash University in Australia examined male and
female fruit flies that carried mitochondria — the part of the cell that
converts food into energy — of various origin. They found that genetic
variation in the mitochondria predicted life expectancy in males, but not
in females. The investigators concluded that several mutations within the
DNA of mitochondria affect how quickly men age as well as their longevity.

“Intriguingly, these same mutations have no effects on patterns of
aging in females. They only affect males,” Dr. Damian Dowling, from the
Monash School of Biological Sciences, said in a university news release.
“All animals possess mitochondria, and the tendency for females to outlive
males is common to many different species. Our results therefore suggest
that the mitochondrial mutations we have uncovered will generally cause
faster male aging across the animal kingdom.”

The mutations result from the way mitochondrial genes are passed down
from one generation to the next, the study authors noted.

“While children receive copies of most of their genes from both their
mothers and fathers, they only receive mitochondrial genes from their
mothers. This means that evolution’s quality control process, known as
natural selection, only screens the quality of mitochondrial genes in
mothers,” explained Dowling. “If a mitochondrial mutation occurs that
harms fathers, but has no effect on mothers, this mutation will slip
through the gaze of natural selection, unnoticed. Over thousands of
generations, many such mutations have accumulated that harm only males,
while leaving females unscathed.”

The study authors said they plan to continue their research and explore
ways to negate the genetic mutations that negatively affect men’s life

The study was published Aug. 2 in Current Biology.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about genetics.

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