Stanford scientists Xiao Xu and Stuart K. Kim showed this month in PLoS Genetics that a regulatory protein called egl-27 helps protect stressed and aging worms. They used a small nematode worm called C. elegans, a common model organism, to show that levels of egl-27 go up as worms get older. Furthermore, when they generated worms with extra egl-27, those worms lived longer than worms with the normal amount of egl-27. The researchers found that egl-27 binds to regions of DNA close to aging- and stress-related genes and modulates their levels to help the worms cope with aging and survive under stressful conditions. Their findings demonstrate that the aging process, usually understood as continuous deterioration, can bring protective changes in gene expression.