Posted on Nov 04, 2018, 3 p.m.
Researchers appear to have found the secret to eternal youth in animal studies which may pave the way to a forever young drug, as published in the journal Nature.
If results can be transferred to humans, lives could be longer and healthier, and possibly free from illnesses such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, while retaining skin and hair with youthful lustre; such a drug may even allow men and women to have children naturally until much older ages, and would greatly ease cost of healthcare while reducing burden in families of care for frail relatives.
Dr. Ronald DePinho of Harvard University has conducted studies reversing aging, in which for the first time the effects of aging was reversed in mice. Skin, brains, guts and other organs of the animals resembled those of an 80 year old human before treatment. According to the researchers within 2 months of receiving treatment that switches on key enzymes the animals grew so many new cells they had almost completely rejuvenated; infertile male mice even went on to father large litters. In human terms that would be like “having a 40 year old looking like an 80+year old and reversing effects to levels of a 50 year old”.
It is estimated that by 2025 the oncoming Silver Tsunami will bring over 1.2 billion people aged 60+, which will bring with along with them many age related diseases such as CVD and Alzheimer’s, this can be seen as a collision course representing a significant burden to society in all aspects.
This study has reversed aging for the first time in animals, suggesting that there may be a point of return for aging organs that has not been previously appreciated. This breakthrough centres around telomeres, the tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes to protect them from damage. Telomeres become shorter over time increasing odds of developing age related disease, eventually they become so short the cells die. Telomerase enzymes which are typically switched off in the body have been shown to rebuild these telomere caps.
The team was able to shock the telomerase enzyme back to life in mice with premature aging in a way designed to mimic human aging. The technique was expected to slow or even halt the aging process but had the unexpected effect of reversing it. DePinho believes that it should be possible to make a pill that will do the same in humans, which taken in middle age could delay and/or prevent development of many age related diseases and possibly extend life.
However there are important caveats such as high levels of telomerase can fuel the growth of cancers and one drug is unlikely to smooth away the problems of aging; multiple mechanisms could conspire to lead to aging; although telomeres are important there are other factors that come into play.
Dr. Steven Artandi of Stanford University a telomere expert has described the work as beautiful while cautioning that an anti-aging drug is still over 10 years away.
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