Forever Young: Stanford Scientists Find Cellular Fountain of Youth
Reposted by: US & World News
Researchers with Stanford University (SU) Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology (BLSCB) have found a viable way of producing anti-aging properties in cells producing a biological fountain of youth.
By modifying RNA, the researchers created “large numbers of cells for study or drug development.”
Skin cells with telomeres lengthened by the procedure were able to divide up to 40 more times than untreated cells. In essence, this technique could be used to stop aging which is caused by the shortening of telomeres over a lifetime.
Telomeres “are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces.”
New telomeres are 8,000-10,000 nucleotides long and shorten as cells divide. When they reach their maximum division, cells die which is the internal aging clock for humans and other life.
Helen Blau, professor of mcriobiology and immuniology at SU explained: “Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life. This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing or disease modeling.”
The injection of RNA to extend telomeres’ was successful. RNA which “contained the coding sequence for TERT, the active component of a naturally occurring enzyme called telomerase. Telomerase is expressed by stem cells, including those that give rise to sperm and egg cells, to ensure that the telomeres of these cells stay in tip-top shape for the next generation. Most other types of cells, however, express very low levels of telomerase.”
Researchers propose that “the development of telomere extension [could] improve cell therapies and to possibly treat disorders of accelerated aging in humans.”
Implications for diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes, “conditions of aging” are now potentially in the realm of treatable with this discovery.
Back in 2014, Larry Page, chief executive officer of Google, explained his corporation’s project to overcome “aging, one of life’s greatest mysteries” with the Calico company.
Calico LLC , according to their website, “is a research and development company whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan. We will use that knowledge to devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives.”
Page said about the investment into Calico: “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.”
On the website, Calico is described as a group of “scientists from the fields of medicine, drug development, molecular biology, and genetics. Through our research we’re aiming to devise interventions that slow aging and counteract age-related diseases.”
Australian and US researchers hope an anti-ageing compound could be trialled on humans as early as next year, following a key breakthrough that saw the ageing process reversed in mice.
The study, involving Harvard University and the University of NSW, discovered a way of restoring the efficiency of cells, completely reversing the ageing process in muscles.
Two-year-old mice were given a compound over a week, moving back the key indicators of ageing to that of a six-month-old mouse. Researchers said this was the equivalent of making a 60-year-old person feel like a 20-year-old.
It’s hoped the research, published in Cell, will be expanded to humans as early as next year, with scientists set to look at how the theory of age reversal can be used to treat diseases such as cancer, dementia and diabetes.
The research focused on an area of cells, called mitochondria, which produce energy. Over time, the communication between this area and the cell nucleus degrades, leading to the ageing process.
Researchers injected a chemical called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, which reduces in the body as we age. The addition of this compound led to the radical reversal in the ageing of the mice.
“The ageing process we discovered is like a married couple: when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down,” said the UNSW professor David Sinclair, who is based at Harvard Medical School. “And just like a couple, restoring communication solved the problem.”
Dr Nigel Turner, senior research fellow at UNSW and co-author of the study, told Guardian Australia the rate of age reversal in mice was “amazingly rapid”.
“We mapped the pathway to ageing carefully, but it was a real surprise to see the markers of ageing move back so quickly in just a week,” he said.
Turner said a “magic pill” that reverses ageing is several years away, partially due to the cost of the compound, which would be about $50,000 a day for a human.
But trials are expected to commence as soon as next year, with researchers confident that side-effects will be minimal due to the fact the compound is naturally occurring.
“Now that we understand the pathway, we can look at other ways to restore the communication and reverse the ageing process,” Turner said. “People think anti-ageing research is about us wanting to make people live until they are 200, but the goal is really to help people be healthy longer into old age.
“We know that this cell communication breaks down in diseases such as dementia, cancer and type-two diabetes. This research focused on muscles, but it could benefit multiple organs and delay and prevent a lot of these diseases occurring.
“Whether that means we’ll all live to 150, I don’t know, but the important part is that we don’t spend the last 20 to 30 years of our lives in bad health.”