Scientists discover techniques to reverse aging in mice

Lab Mouse

Researchers have been able to reverse aging in laboratory mice. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A way to reverse aging has been sought for centuries. It was once thought to be as plausible as a Northwest Passage, but scientists have discovered a way to do it. However, at this stage, it only works on mice.

Process to reverse aging in mice discovered

Recently, scientific researchers from the Harvard Medical School announced a revolutionary breakthrough; they had discovered how to reverse aging in laboratory mice using gene therapy, according to ABC. The research team was headed by Dr. Ronald A. DePinho of Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The findings were published in the journal Nature. After scientists were able to genetically engineer mice that aged faster, gene therapy was used to reverse the effects of aging, and it was successful. For instance, mice whose fur had turned gray grew darker fur. Mice whose brains had shrunk, similar to Alzheimer’s patients, regenerated brain tissue. Subjects that had lost some organ function were able to have it restored. Infertility was reversed. The implication is that there may be a way stop aging, or at least stop or diminish the effects of aging.

How it worked

How the process works is by gene therapy. DNA has pairs of chromosomes, which have caps on them called telomeres. Telomeres produce a protective compound called telomerase, which is what the study focused on. As organisms age, less telomerase is produced, and the telomeres break down over time, which causes damage to DNA structure. The laboratory mice were given gene therapy to reverse telomere breakdown. The study was not out to reverse the aging process totally, it was simply to see if the process could be slowed.

The catch

The catch is that the gene therapy is not even close to being available for humans. It is likely that any human benefit will be from drug regimens that stimulate telomere growth. Also, should this become available for humans, only the process of aging, or the breakdown of the body, will be affected. Telomerase therapies won’t grant people eternal life.



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