Posted on Apr 09, 2020, 12 p.m.
Scientists have been working to understand the mystery behind supercentenarians for decades, now researchers may have overcome one of the first obstacles in cracking that secret code to living a long and healthy life of 110+ years.
Longevity warriors for some reason appear to be resistant to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. In an attempt to unlock this medical mystery scientists have been trying to reprogram cells and have recently successfully been able to reprogram cells from a 114 year old woman for the first known time, as published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.
“Why do supercentenarians age so slowly?” says study author Evan Y. Snyder. “We are now set to answer that question in a way no one has been able to before.”
In attempts to reveal the secret(s) a team from Sanford Burnham Prebys and AgeX Therapeutic have reprogrammed the supercentenarian blood cells, plus those from a 43 year old and an 8 year old with progeria which is a condition that causes rapid aging.
“Now we have shown it can be done, and we have a valuable tool for finding the genes and other factors that slow down the aging process,” says study author Evan Y. Snyder.
Pluripotent stem cells, which are like a general purpose kind of stem cell, were created from blood cells before transforming them into mesenchymal stem cells, which are a more specific kind of stem cell that help to maintain structural tissues. Surprisingly, all three of the participants' cells were found to transform just as easily as the other.
The DNA protective telomere end caps that shrink with age were found to “reset” from all three sample sets, including those of the supercentenarian which were observed to “reset” to levels that would typically be associated with young people as if the biological clock had been reset. However, the telomere reset in the supercentenarian iPSCs occurred less frequently than it did among the other two samples.
Having overcome this important obstacle the team will now focus their attention on unraveling the mystery behind supercentenarian longevity by comparing muscle cells between the different age groupings to examine any genes or molecular processes revealed that might explain the secrets behind longevity warrior’s hardiness and survivability.
Should the team be successful in their attempts the pharmaceutical industry would then be able to concentrate on developing drugs to combat age related disease based on mimicking the patterns and processes exhibited by the supercentenarian derived stem cells.
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