A research team at Harvard Medical School believes they have discovered the holy grail of anti-aging by successfully reversing the aging process in mice.
In our never-ending quest to fight the aging process, scientists at Harvard have reported a fascinating discovery in reversing this process in mice, which could eventually lead to discoveries in how to combat degeneration in humans.
Telomerase is an enzyme that creates the DNA repeat sequence on the end of chromosomes. Scientists have been aware for awhile about this enzyme but this is the first time there has been a successful experiment on a mammal.
As we age naturally, our levels of telomerase decrease. This is associated with tissue degeneration and a decline in brain function.
The Harvard scientists managed to genetically create mice with a controllable telomerane switch. This switch enabled the researchers to discover if they could turn on the telomerane switch in the mice and reverse the signs of degeneration.
In an amazing outcome it was discovered that they were able to reverse aging in the mice, including brain disease and infertility.
The mice experienced biological changes with new brain growth and testes, improved fertility and a return of lost cognitive function. The mice’s cells returned to a healthy state. Their dormant sperm cells returned, in turn producing larger litters.
The mice used in the experiment were sick but they were able to reverse their degeneration allowing the sick mice to live as long as the healthy mice used in the control.
Although this isn’t directly useful to humans, it could be a breakthrough to help combat degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. These findings could also help future treatments for rare genetic premature aging diseases.
“Whether this would impact on normal aging is a more difficult question,” said Ronald A DePinho, a Harvard Medical School professor of genetics, senior author of the research paper, which appeared in the online version of the journal Nature, and director of Dana-Farber’s Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science.
“But it is notable that telomere loss is associated with age-associated diseases and thus restoration of telomeres could alleviate such disorders,” he continued.
“If you can remove the underlying damage and stresses that drive the aging process and cause stem cells to go into growth arrest, you may be able to recruit them back into a regenerative response to rejuvenate tissues and maintain health in the aged,” DePinho concluded.