Harvard scientists may be a step closer to a medical fountain of youth after figuring out how to reverse the aging process in mice. The breakthrough could lead to a way to slow the aging process in humans which in turn could extend quality of life by reducing the impact of age-related ailments like heart disease or dementia. That is, if it doesn't kill them first.
Harvard Medical School scientists turned unhealthy old mice into youthful versions of themselves by tampering with an enzyme called telomerase. While the aging process is not totally understood, one of the many factors that causes the deterioration of the body's tissues is tied to telomeres, which protect the end of each of the chromosomes in DNA. When cells divide, the telomeres are cut shorter and shorter until eventually they stop working altogether and the cell either dies or goes into a dormant state.
The researchers genetically engineered mice that lacked telomerase, an enzyme that stops telomeres from shortening. As such, the telomeres rapidly grew shorter and the mice aged quickly, developing all the signs of old age including damaged organs, a shrinking brain, and infertility. The researchers then injected the mice with a cocktail that reactivated their telomerase. This didn't just slow the aging process, but actually reversed the effects of aging, essentially making the mice grow younger.
But rejuvenating old organs in mice does not necessarily mean a human treatment is on the way, the researchers warn. For one, mice make telomerase throughout their lives, but the enzyme is switched off in adult humans, as it can cause unchecked cell replication (read: cancer). None of the mice in the study developed cancer, but there's no telling if human tissues would tolerate the treatment so well.
Still, the breakthrough is monumentally important as researchers attempt to blunt the negative effects of aging in increasingly gray populations around the globe. There's no telling if such a treatment could help humans to live longer, but it could lead to a better quality of life in older humans by allowing their organs to regenerate rather than undergo sustained deterioration toward the end of life.
Sure, it may cause cancer, but doesn't everything nowadays? And not everything can reverse aging, so I say "Bring it on!".
Luckily, I'm only 20, so by the time I'm "old" there will hopefully be some major advancements here, and I won't have to worry about being old AND decrepit :P .
-IMP ;) :)
how to add to favorites so I dont have to comment on articles I want to save?
*D Ace Lee*
You can already tell this is a horrible idea. Our bodies wont agree with anti-aging.
Experts in aging science typically predict a cure for aging sometime within the next 50-70 years. And like most predictions, it seems like we underestimated our own ingenuity. :)
It really seems that they should be able to find volunteers for this pretty easily. I mean there are really old people dieing all over the place, for them their's very little real risk in taking the treatment other then pain, or living forever.
Sign me up for a guinea pig!
Has England taught us NOTHING?
Yeah, but what they don't mention in the article is that a side affect of the treatment is the insatiable craving for human flesh.
This is so cool!! Better knock on wood!
Just told Santa you want a pet guinea pig. Anything else? ;-)
This could also work in reverse, no? Possibly to destroy cancer cells?
This is a great idea... because we only have about 7 BILLION humans remaining, it only makes sense to try to keep the ones we have around even longer.
*sarcasm sarcasm sarcasm*
What about those who can afford it gets it, for exemple, what if we could have einstain still around? wouldnt that be awesome? I sure think so! But of course, if it get so cheap that everyone can use it, that would be even better, but then, we would need to stop our government from paying the poor to reproduce, cause thats just dumb and wrong.
This is a terrible idea! Every dictator in the world would acquire this treatment and then they would never die! (or at least live even longer!) Plus, can the planet even handle supporting hundreds of millions of people for years longer? I think that we should strive to live longer through nutrition and medicine, but should let our bodies end when the time comes.
Don't worry. Cancer is on the rise and the older you get, it gets more and more likely that you will get it.
In the end it comes down to individual choice and trust me, there is plenty of room on earth and in our galaxy to live for a very long time and enjoy it.
Now before anyone tries to come up with reasons why that couldn't be, understand that I have already thought of those reasons and overcame them and/or am working on ways to overcome them currently.
Eh, learned about telomerase and anti-aging in general biology lecture about 7 weeks ago. Additionally, I don't trust this as telomerase also causes cancer if to much of the enzyme is present....
I dont think it would work but i cant see much harm in trying, maximizing are years is a human principle but i can only see the earth overcrowding soon we need to start spreading to other planets soon.
Isn't it a bummer that we will be one of the last generations to succumb to the disease of aging? So close. In 100 years or so, life expectancy may well be increasing at a rate of greater than a year per year, with humans effectively achieving immortality.
If guinea pig tests are successful the population of the world in 2100 AD should be nearing 40 billion.....give or take a few billion from wars, famine, etc.
Hey sign me up for guinea pig tests anytime!
Lengthen my telomeres as much as you want!
In the end there can be only one.....
Seems kind of foolish to inject living organisms with the same thing that they use to create immortalized cell lines. Apoptosis is a necessary function within living organisms. At any rate I wouldn't expect scientists to start injecting people with telomerase without first conducting a very long term study.
From the way the article is worded, they reversed aging in artificially aged mice - in other words, repaired to the norm of an unmodified mouse. The next step would be to try the process on unmodified mice.
Even if it has a high risk of cancer, however, it might still have a place in the human market. If the choice is between a natural course to 85 or die at 75 from cancer - but have the health of someone 65 the entire time - there are many who would give up half of their remaining years for so signifigant a gain during them.
I'm no MD but I haven't read anywhere about unchecked cell division. Even if there were some unchecked cell division that doesn't equal cancer. Additionally, telomerase caps the the eukaryotes to prevent DNA degradation, not mutate it! Sure if you have cancer already then you may run a risk of making it worse but, I don't think this drug would potentially give you cancer. Yeah, I'd be a guinea pig for this!
The problem with "those who can afford it get it" is that we would live in a constant state of feudalism.
The rich (who would never die) would control everything even more so than now, and there would be absolutely no such thing as social mobility.
Unless you were born rich, you'd be stuck in a mortal "worker bee" role slaving away for your immortal rich masters.
I first read about telomeres from Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near." It's great to see the analogous research is being done. For something with such encompassing potential this should be a field of intense research in the years to come. Exciting!
tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
If you really want to get more interesting info on this go to www.lef.org and search telomerase or telomeres. It explains the cancer thing and even talks about the drug that increases telomerase and a study that is underway.
Living longer and better is good. How about the effects of this increasing the brains sharpness and speed? This would be ultimate goal and is needed for all of us.
Of course, this is tampering with nature. Evolution has invented aging and death as a way of perpetuating the species.
Consider your trying to make a cup that would last a million years. You'd probably try the best that technology provides, but before that time had elapsed, the cup would have been crushed, melted, or otherwise destroyed.
But suppose you wanted to make certain you simply had cups for a million years? Enter -- the disposable cup. A paper one would do for an hour, or a china one might do for a decade or so.
Nature came up with a way to perpetuate original genes -- the disposable organism. A current copy dies, but makes copies of itself before that. Then there's all the gene mixing and mutations, good or bad, but that's beside the point.
Without the invention of death, we would have no life. So how can we knock success?