Nature 560, 661–665 (2018)
In previous research with mice, the gene SIRT6 had been linked to aging—overexpressing it was shown to increase the lifespans of male mice, while deficient animals appeared to age and die prematurely. A new study in a closer relative to humans suggests a different role.
Using CRISPR-Cas9, a team of Chinese researchers knocked out SIRT6 in cynomolgus macaques. Unlike mice, these nonhuman primates didn’t seem to age prematurely; rather, they didn’t develop properly in utero. They were smaller than wild-type newborns, with brain, tissue, and skeletal impairments. The researchers looked closer at gene expression in the underdeveloped animals, finding a number that were differently expressed. One was particularly upregulated in the underdeveloped brains: an RNA that impedes the development of neurons. In primates, it seems SIRT6 has a role at the beginning of life that’s not apparent in rodents.