Aging processes reversed: cells can be rejuvenated
Eternal life is one of the oldest dreams of mankind. However, the hope of immortality will never be fulfilled. Nevertheless, researchers worldwide are concerned with the question of how life can be extended. Researchers in the USA have now found out in an experiment with mice how cells can be rejuvenated. Aging processes are therefore reversible in certain areas.
People's life expectancy is increasing
The life expectancy of Germans has reached a record level in recent years. In other countries, too, people live much longer today. In the past few years, some researchers have even claimed that life expectancy can be increased tenfold. Others came to the conclusion that the maximum life expectancy was limited to 115 years. Even if there will be no living being forever, at least the aging process is reversible. Scientists found this in a test with mice.
Reversal of the aging process
Years ago, studies looked at how cells can get younger again. Researchers in the United States have now managed to turn back the biological clock in cells. They equipped mice with extra genes that reversed the aging process. The experts report in the journal "Cell" about the new findings.
Cells rejuvenated by four genes
Around ten years ago, the Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka managed to overcome the law of aging with a trick, at least for cells. As the Austrian "Standard" reports, the Japanese was able to show that adult, differentiated cells can be rejuvenated by reprogramming using four genes - to so-called "induced pluripotent stem cells". For this, Yamanaka received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2012.
Since then, iPS cells have been widely used in biomedical research, also because, unlike human embryonic stem cells, they are considered ethically unproblematic.
Previous attempts had failed
Attempts to activate the Yamanaka factors in all cells of an organism have failed spectacularly. In 2013 and 2014, two research teams reported that all experimental animals to which the Yamanaka genes were introduced died either from cancer or organ damage because the cells in the tissue had given up their identity.
Scientists from the Salk Institute in California have now provided initial evidence that reprogramming can be used not only to rejuvenate cells, but actually whole organisms if they are carefully dosed and modulated, writes the "Standard".
The team led by Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte produced genetically modified mice that had four additional copies of the Yamanaka genes. According to the information, however, these were only activated when the animals drank water with a special active ingredient.
Slowing the aging process
It is said that this actually slowed the aging process by 30 percent, especially on the organs and on the regeneration of muscle tissue.
"Our study shows that aging does not have to go in one direction," said Professor Izpisua Belmonte in a statement from the institute. "Aging could be reversed."
"Of course mice are not human and we know that rejuvenating a person will be much more complex," said the expert. "But this study shows that aging is a very dynamic and plastic process and is therefore more suitable for therapeutic interventions than we previously thought."
Rejuvenation in humans
Scientists who were not involved in the study were also very impressed with the work, according to a report by the New York Times. Accordingly, they could be of great importance for new findings in biological aging research.
Salk Institute researchers believe that the promising approach could help rejuvenate humans. However, at least ten years would pass before clinical trials could be carried out.
Until then, you have to stick to the previously known options to live longer. Above all, a healthy lifestyle is important here, because you can live an average of 17 years longer, as researchers at the German Cancer Research Institute (DKFZ) calculated. According to the experts, patience also plays a major role; the cells of the impatient age much faster. (ad)