New Gene Therapy May Soon Reverse the Aging Process in Humans
Scientists at Salk Institute in La Jolla, California have successfully develop a new form of gene therapy that was capable of reversing the aging process of mice models and lengthen their life by 30 percent.
Their findings, described in a paper published in the journal Cell, showed that using genetic techniques to turn back adult cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells could also be used to "rewind" the biological clock of the cells, making them younger without losing their specialized function.
"What we saw is that the animal has fewer signs of aging, healthier organs, and at the end of the experiment we could see they had lived 30 percent longer than control mice," said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a researchers at Salk Institute and senior author of the paper, in a report from New York Times.
For their experiments, the researchers used mice with a genetic disorder that made them age prematurely. These mice were then genetically engineered to have extra copies of four of the so-called Yamanaka genes, which could turn adult cells back to embryonic state. The extra set Yamanaka genes make it possible for the researchers to artificially switch on all four genes using certain chemicals mixed in the drinking water of the mice.
Six weeks after the initial treatment, the researchers observed that the mice were visibly younger, with fewer signs of aging. Aside from improved skin and muscle tone, the mice also exhibited healthier organs, with reduced DNA damage and better function of the cell powerhouse, mitochondria.
Additionally, the researchers noted a significant increase in the life span of the experimental mice models. The engineered mouse lived 30 percent longer than the control mice.
Despite the success of their experiments in mouse models, the researchers believe that it might take awhile for possible human applications. The researchers also noted that the goal of the rejuvenating process is to extend the lifespan and health-span of humans and not promote immortality.