For a very long time, scientists have been trying to figure out how to stop all the pains and other health problems that come with aging.
After all, while old age comes with a lot of wisdom and experience, there is no doubt that the tired bones, achy backs and all the increased illness risks are not anything to look forward to.
That being said, finding a scientific way to help people live healthier and, at the same time, longer lives, has been a longtime goal for medical researchers.
The good news is that a new study has been able to produce some really intriguing results!
At this point in time, the team of researchers has only looked into long-term ‘partial reprogramming’ of cells in mice which means they are likely far from being ready for human beings but overall, the results are really promising.
According to Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, the study’s senior author and a Salk Institute developmental biologist, “We are elated we can now use this approach across the life span in order to slow down aging in animals. The technique is safe and effective in mice.”
The researchers discovered that tissue in the skin and kidney of mice was “rejuvenated.”
What this means is that expressions of genes that usually cause cell death, inflammation and stress response were greatly lowered in the mice that had been treated.
Furthermore, the skin was also able to scar less and proliferate more which is basically the complete opposite of what happens as people age.
Not to mention that the mice’s epigenetic clocks, which measure the patterns of DNA methylation levels usually linked to aging, appeared to be wound back as well!
Belmonte went on to share that “In addition to tackling age related diseases, this approach may also provide the biomedical community with a brand new tool to restore tissue as well as organismal health by improving cell functions and resilience in different illness situations, such as neurodegenerative diseases.”
As mentioned before, this study has only focused on mice at this point so there is still a long way before it can show results in humans but based on what’s shown so far, it appears to be safe and effective in the long run.
In addition to that, it seems like it might just help human beings get rid of the worst parts of aging one day as far as the results can indeed be replicated in humans.
The researcher team experimented with 4 proteins regulating the expression of DNA, Sox2, Klf4, Oct4, and c-Myc, collectively named “Yamanaka factors” after the pioneer of this stem cells technique.
This technique can actually turn adult cells into stem cells but the new scientist team proved that it could also be used to “partially reprogram” them by reverting them to a more youthful stage without them having to turn all the way back into stem cells.
Naturally, if the same can be done to a big enough number of cells in an animal’s body, it is possible that their entire body clock would also become younger.
Knowing this already, the researchers wish to look into what happens when the Yamanaka factors were applied to the mice they experimented on longer term.
With that being said, in the new research, the factors were employed in 3 ways.
The first trial was rather short and involved a group of mice treated for only a month starting when they were 25 months old, which is equivalent to being around 80 years old in human age.
As for the second and the third groups, they had longer term treatments, one receiving a regular dose from 15-22 months, the equivalent of being 50 to 70 in human age, while the other got the same doses from 12 to 22 months – ages 35 to 70 in humans.
As you can imagine, those treated for only a month did not register any age reversing qualities but those who were treated for a longer period of time showed promising signs of rejuvenation without any increase in the risk of developing cancer or other health issues.
Boston Children’s Hospital’s researchers Arianna Markel and George Q. Dale, two researchers who were not involved in the study, stated that “Overall, this study provides provocative hints that long term partial reprogramming really holds promise as an intervention that may restore and rejuvenate the functions of some tissues. It’s especially notable that partial reprogramming successfully elicits systemic transcriptomic, metabolomic, and lipidomic changes, and also alters the epigenetic clock. Moreover, observing the results in a normally aging mouse model provides further evidence this approach may be beneficial beyond disease states.”
As mentioned before, this method is most likely years away from being used in humans but there is no doubt such a treatment is really exciting for the development of anti-aging science as a whole.