A virus with a huge genome produces a compound that could be used in antiaging treatments.

Called Emiliania huxleyi virus 86, the virus infects chalk-covered marine algae and uses the compound to slow down its host’s aging process.

Researchers at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge have now decoded the virus’s genome.

They discovered a cluster of genes responsible for producing ceramide, a key component of anti-wrinkle and antiaging creams that can control mechanisms leading to programmed cell death. The genes have only previously been found in animal and plant cells.

“For an invading virus, the ability to control when your host will die and ensure your own survival is quite incredible,” says researcher Willie Wilson in a news release. “Essentially the virus hijacks the cell and slows down the aging process by keeping it healthy for as long as possible. It uses the cell as a kind of factory to replicate itself and eventually takes over completely, killing off the cell.”

More here.