Death and taxes are still guaranteed, but growing old may become a thing of the past.
According to a research study published by the Salk Institute, cellular rejuvenation in mice has shown aging with no increase in cancer or other health issues. After a certain point, age is just a number, and those extra candles come at a cost to your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, Side effects include brittle bones, cardiovascular disease, weaker muscles, and cancer. Genentech, the Salk Institute, and one member of the Roche group have safely and effectively reversed aging in middle-aged and elderly mice by turning back the clocks on their cells.
“We are elated that we can use this approach across the life span to slow down aging in normal animals. The technique is both safe and effective in mice,” said co-corresponding author Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and holder of the Roger Guillemin Chair. “In addition to tackling age-related diseases, this approach may provide the biomedical community with a new tool to restore tissue and organismal health by improving cell function and resilience in different disease situations, such as neurodegenerative diseases.”
According to the Izpisua Belmonte Lab report, appearances change, and their cells age when people age. Older people or animals have different patterns of chemicals and DNA, called epigenetic markers comparison to younger people or animals.
Scientists discovered that adding a mixture of Yamanaka factors to cells and reprogramming cause them to recover. According to Izpisua Belmonte’s lab report, the first Yamanaka factors used countered the signs of aging and increased life span in mice with a premature aging disease. More recently, the team discovered young mice had Yamanaka factors accelerating muscle regeneration. Following these initial observations, other scientists have used the same approach to improve the function of tissues like the heart, brain, and optic nerve, which are involved in vision.
According to a 2016 study from Izpisua Belmonte, cell age reversal technology in regular intervals was used on three groups of mice.
Group 1 is 15-22 months, which is equal to age 50-70 in human years.
Group 2 is 12-22 months, which is 35 to 70 in human years.
Group 3 1-25 months, which is equal to 80 human years.
“What we wanted to establish was that using this approach for a longer period is safe,” says Pradeep Reddy, a Salk staff scientist and co-first author of the new paper. “Indeed, we did not see any negative effects on the health, behavior or bodyweight of these animals.”
When the team examined the animals with the added Yamanaka factors, they had no cancers and resembled younger animals. Injured animals regenerated cell tissue and were less likely to form permanent scars. Usually, older animals are more likely to scar and have lower healing factors. Even blood tests showed no signs of aging in the test subjects. Animals treated for seven to 10 months with the Yamanaka factors showed, but not the animals treated for one month. At the halfway point of their treatment, the animals showed no change, suggesting that age is reversing instead of pausing.
The team has a future research plan on how molecules and genes change by long-term treatment with the Yamanaka factors. They are also developing new ways of delivering these factors.
“At the end of the day, we want to bring resilience and function back to older cells so that they are more resistant to stress, injury, and disease,” said Reddy. “This study shows that, at least in mice, there’s a path forward to achieving that.”