Researchers in molecular biologist David Sinclair’s lab at Harvard Medical School have learned how to rejuvenate mice.
Using special proteins that can convert an adult cell into a stem cell, researchers have returned aged rodent cells to their earlier versions. This is how scientists have been able to restore vision lost by old mice, but they claim that other body systems can be ‘revamped’ in a similar way and that this method is also applicable to humans.
“It’s a permanent reset, as far as we can tell, and we think it may be a universal process that could be applied throughout the body to reset our age,” said Sinclair, who has spent the last 20 years studying ways to reverse the ravages of time, during Life Itself, a health and wellness event presented in partnership with CNN.
“Today we have the technology to be able to reach 100 years without worrying about cancer at 70, heart disease at 80 and Alzheimer’s at 90,” he added.
How was the new rejuvenation technology developed?
Back in 2007, the Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka managed to reprogram adult skin cells to behave like embryonic or pluripotent stem cells capable of becoming any cell in the body. The discovery earned the scientist a Nobel Prize, and his “induced pluripotent stem cells” soon became known as ‘Yamanaka factors’.
But his rejuvenation method has a drawback: adult cells completely reconverted into stem cells lose their identity. They forget that they are blood cells, heart cells, and skin cells, which makes them suitable for regeneration, but not for rejuvenation in the literal sense of the word.
In 2016, experts at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California managed to solve this problem, but faced a new one: In certain situations, laboratory mice with the altered cells developed cancerous tumors.
In search of a safer alternative, a geneticist in Sinclair’s lab, Yuancheng Lu, developed a virus-assisted rejuvenation technique. After injecting the virus into the eyes of the mice, the pluripotent genes were activated by feeding the rodents an antibiotic. The damaged neurons in the eyes of the injected mice rejuvenated, and even grew new axons.
The scientists then managed to reverse the aging of the mice’s muscles and brains, and are now working on rejuvenating the entire mouse body.
“Somehow the cells know that the body can reboot itself and still know which genes should be active when they were young,” Sinclair said.
“We think we’re tapping into an ancient regeneration system that some animals use: when you cut off a salamander’s limb, the limb grows back. A fish’s tail will grow back; a mouse’s finger will grow back.”
That discovery indicates that there is a ‘backup’ of information about youth stored in the bodyhe explained.
However, the researcher pointed out that studies on whether the genetic intervention that revitalized the mice will do the same for people are in the early stages. He stressed that it will be years before human trials are completed, analyzed and, if safe and successful, scaled up to the mass needed to gain the US federal seal of approval.
(Taken from RT in Spanish)
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Unpublished: Harvard researchers manage to rejuvenate mice