Advance in reversing aging

However, a group of scientists has managed to reverse the aging process in mice, partially restoring their cells to more youthful states.

Juan Carlos Izpisúa, a researcher at the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute in La Jolla (California, United States) and his team of scientists, managed to demonstrate that this process can be delayed in middle-aged and elderly rodents.

Izpisúa, who carried out this work in collaboration with Genentech, from the Roche group, pointed out that in addition to addressing and treating age-related diseases, this new approach is capable of providing the entire biomedical community with a new tool to restore the health of tissues and the body, thus improving the function and also the recovery capacity of cells in different disease situations, as well as those that are neurodegenerative.

The results, which were published in the journal Natural Aging, they have years of laboratory behind. The team of scientists discovered that by altering the dose, frequency and duration of molecules called Yamanaka factors, they could program cells to increase their resilience and functionality “in vitro”.

It is a question of cellular reprogramming, a process in which, through the activity of four proteins, it is possible to transform any adult cell into an induced pluri-potent stem cell, which is capable of dividing indefinitely and then becoming any type of cell. The discovery of this process, made by the Japanese Shinya Yamanaka, earned him a Nobel Prize.

After the “in vitro” achievements, in 2016 the team first reported its advances in the field of animals. Izpisúa stressed that this treatment counteracted the signs of aging and increased life expectancy in mice with a premature aging disease, according to the EFE agency.

In 2021, specialists discovered that even in young mice, the aforementioned factors can accelerate muscle regeneration, for which Izpisúa expressed:

“Following these observations, scientists have used our methodology to improve the function of other tissues in the heart, brain or optic nerve.”

The study has a dual purpose: first of all, to check whether the beneficial effects previously observed in mice with different diseases also occurred in mice without pathologies and whether they occurred at different stages of life.

One group of rodents received regular doses of Yamanaka’s factors from ages 15 to 22 months, roughly equivalent to ages 50 to 70 in humans. Another group was treated from 12 to 22 months, which is equivalent to between 35 and 70 years in humans. And a third group only for one month at the age of 25 months, which is roughly equivalent to age 80 in humans.

Compared with control animals, there were no blood cell abnormalities or neurological changes in those receiving Yamanaka factors; the team found no cancers – an increased risk is associated with aging – in either group.

When the researchers looked at the normal signs of aging, they found that in many ways they resembled younger mice: in kidneys and skin, the epigenetics of the treated animals more closely resembled the epigenetic patterns seen in the younger ones.

Epigenetic markers, influenced by the environment and closely linked to lifestyle, are the chemical marks that control our genetics and change the way genes are expressed.

When the mice’s skin cells were injured, they had a greater ability to proliferate and were much less prone to permanent scarring, according to scientists.

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Advance in reversing aging