A study conducted by a team from the University of Otago, New Zealand, has found that castration can delay aging.

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The New Zealand based team were able to show that castrated sheep lived a lot longer than their fully-equipped male peers.

Castration to Delay Aging

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It is well known among farmers and researchers that castrated sheep have a longer life expectancy, however, the study titled “Castration delays epigenetic aging and feminizes DNA methylation at androgen-regulated loci” confirmed the fact.

According to the study’s abstract:

“In mammals, females generally live longer than males. Nevertheless, the mechanisms underpinning sex-dependent longevity are currently unclear. Epigenetic clocks are powerful biological biomarkers capable of precisely estimating chronological age and identifying novel factors influencing the aging rate using only DNA methylation data.

In this study, we developed the first epigenetic clock for domesticated sheep (Ovis aries), which can predict chronological age with a median absolute error of 5.1 months. We have discovered that castrated male sheep have a decelerated aging rate compared to intact males, mediated at least in part by the removal of androgens.

Furthermore, we identified several androgen-sensitive CpG dinucleotides that become progressively hypomethylated with age in intact males, but remain stable in castrated males and females.

Comparable sex-specific methylation differences in MKLN1 also exist in bat skin and a range of mouse tissues that have high androgen receptor expression, indicating that it may drive androgen-dependent hypomethylation in divergent mammalian species.

In characterizing these sites, we identify biologically plausible mechanisms explaining how androgens drive male-accelerated aging.”

The researchers hypothesized the possibility of a similar application to humans.

What About Men?

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“Both farmers and scientists have known for some time that castrated male sheep live on average much longer than their intact counterparts; however, this is the first time anyone has looked at DNA to see if it also ages slower,” said Victoria Sugrue, one of the researchers in a statement.

According to Eureka Alert:

“In order to do this, the researchers first had to generate an ‘epigenetic clock’ from large numbers of sheep so they could measure DNA aging. They then looked at the epigenetic clock of castrated and intact males and found their ‘ticking rate’ is different; meaning that the longer lives of castrated sheep, or ‘wethers’ as they are referred to by farmers, is reflected in their DNA.

Underpinning this study is the rapid development of tools to study DNA aging. Recently it has become possible to estimate the age of humans and other mammals using only DNA and epigenetic clocks.”

The research could potentially be applied to humans.

“We developed a way to measure biological age in a broad range of mammals — we have looked at over 200 species so far and discovered surprising commonality in which animals age,” said study co-author Steve Horvath, professor from the University of California in Los Angeles, who found the “Epigenetic Clock,” used to measure age, in the statement. “But the sheep study was unique in that it specifically isolated the effects of male hormones on aging.”

Another researcher at the University of Otago, Tim Hore, stated: “We found that males and females have very different patterns of DNA aging in sheep; and that despite being male, the castrates [wethers] had very feminine characteristics at specific DNA sites.” 


“Interestingly, those sites most affected by castration also bind to receptors of male hormones in humans at a much greater rate than we would expect by chance,” Hore added. “This provides a clear link between castration, male hormones and sex-specific differences in DNA aging.”


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