MPrize for World’s Oldest Ever Mouse
Ongoing open innovation contest to produce the oldest laboratory mouse as part of a mission to extend human life spans.
Prof Andrzej Bartke, United States
Inspired by the X Prize open innovation competition, the MPrize (formerly known as the “Methuselah Mouse Prize”) is a scientific research prize awarded to scientists who can successfully extend the life of a laboratory mouse. The contest was created by the non-profit Methuselah Foundation to accelerate research into medical interventions that can extend healthy human life.
David Gobel, CEO of the Methuselah Foundation is firm in his belief that an open innovation contest that encourages teams of scientists to compete toward a common goal will find the solution and “turn the impossible into the inevitable.” He believes that competitions such as the MPrize can create revolutionary solutions because they pool together the most diverse group of talent, ideas, and approaches, attract high levels investment, and act as a catalyst for new levels of excellence.
Despite their obvious anatomical differences mice and humans are genetically very similar and the small mammals play a vital role in improving our understanding of inherited human diseases. Scientists working with mouse genes can make strong predictions about the location and function of their human counterparts. And in terms of extending life spans it is hoped that successful work on mice can be readily applied to humans. The foundation believes that if the reversal of ageing can be clearly demonstrated in mice, then more funding will come for similar research in humans.
Incentive to Innovate
If living forever or more realistically to at least 120 years of age isn’t enough motivation, maybe a few million bucks will be. The current prize pot stands at $4.5 million which comes from private donations. Prizes are awarded whenever the world record lifespan of the most commonly used lab mammal, Mus musculus, is exceeded. And the amount of the prize depends on the size of the fund at the time, and the margin by which the previous record has been exceeded.
The current record is held by a mouse that lived for nearly five years, which is two years longer than normal. In human terms that would be around 150-180 years. The lab animal had a growth hormone receptor gene knocked out which resulted in lower levels of insulin and glucose and this somehow protected DNA from age-related damage. The research was carried out by Prof Andrzej Bartke an expert in geriatric medicine from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. He was only awarded $500 for his accomplishment as it was used as the standard that future entries must beat.
There are two prizes on offer; the longevity prize for extending lifespan and the rejuvenation prize for late-onset intervention performed on an aged mouse.
The overall winner of the prize must better Prof Bartke’s effort and will receive a chunk of the prize money for each week the mouse survives after breaking the old record and setting a new one.
Combating Age-Related Diseases
The MPrize is not going to make personal extinction a thing of the past, but at the very least the fruits of this open innovation contest could help to slow down the incidence and severity of age-related diseases.
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