Aging people and monkeys trigger the same stress hormone

People grow old on the same pattern as our next of kin, the chimpanzees. This conclusion was reached by scientists at the University of New Mexico studying the behaviour of wild chimpanzees living in Kibale National Park, Uganda. In addition, great apes and humans find significant similarities in how they respond to attractive members of the opposite sex.

American scientists collected samples of wild chimpanzees' urine to study cortisol levels known as 'stress hormone'. They studied monkeys for twenty years and found that cortisol levels in urine increased over the years just as they did in humans. It is the increase in cortisol levels that gives rise to lower cognitive functions, weakened immune systems and other signs of aging.

The results of the study show that age-related changes in cortisol production by the body are the oldest sign of aging hominids, uniting both humans and humanoid monkeys.

"This indicates that humans have inherited this function and it is neither a by-product of increased longevity nor a reaction to environmental changes," says anthropologist Melissa Emory Thompson.

In addition, increased cortisol levels are also observed in female chimpanzees on days when they are ready to mate and attract increased aggressive attention from male chimps. Cortisol production increases over the years. Conversely, aging male chimpanzees have lower levels of cortisol than younger males, although they do increase in the presence of attractive females of the opposite sex.

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