The heart will definitely be happy that someone else is taking some of the responsibilities; pumping blood 24/7, falling in love and “breaking” if the former goes awry is a handful already. So which organ stepped up for this tasked you may be wondering, turns out it’s the cell size of one oft-forgotten organ that correlates with how long humans and other animals live. Yeah, often forgotten.To prove my point, I will let you guess all of three times (which you will fail, sadly). GO!
Hopefully you are done guessing now (and failed all three as predicted). So here it goes: a new study published in the journal Cell Development reported that the size of an animal’s pancreatic cells relates directly to the length of its lifespan, with animals that have larger pancreatic cells living shorter lives and animals with smaller cells living longer. If you somehow managed to guess pancreas, you either harvest organs for a living or you are seriously considering it as a career choice.
“The link between cell size and aging is novel and fascinating and that there was a correlation between two things that are so remote was shockingly beautiful and unexpected,” Yuval Dor, the study’s senior author who works at the Department of Developmental Biology at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada and The Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, told All That’s Interesting.
Previously, it was believed that mammals’ organs grew when the cells inside the organs multiplied — not grew in size individually, but multiplied and grew in overall number. But the scientists had found that this wasn’t the case with the pancreatic cells of mice: The volume of each individual cell was increasing as the mice got older. Also, when the researchers then looked at the pancreatic cells of humans, they found instead that the cells were not growing individually but were instead replicating and growing in overall number as had long been assumed of all mammals.
This set the researchers on a quest: From the Etruscan shrew (which is the smallest mammal in the world) to the giraffe (the tallest), they examined the pancreases from 24 different mammal species of all sorts — zoo animals, farm animals, pets — in order to see how they grow.
In the comparative study, they found a strong negative correlation between the size of individual cells in the pancreas and that species’ lifespan. Mammals that had bigger pancreatic cells aged faster and lived shorter lives. Mammals that had smaller cells lived longer.
The researchers aren’t sure of the exact reason for this, but they have several theories, including “the possibility that larger cells are more susceptible to long-term cumulative damage from their own metabolic activity,” said Dor.
So in a nutshell, in the mammalian world the guy with the largest pancreas (more like pancreatic cell though) dies fastest.