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Published: Sun, December 18, 2016
Medical | By Garry George

Anti-Aging Process Rejuvenates Lab Mice


"I used to work at the Salk Institute as a postdoc, so I was very familiar with Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte's research", said Firth, assistant professor of medicine at the Eli and Edythe Broad CIRM Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

In modern societies, as people live longer, their risk of developing age-related diseases increases.

"What we and other stem-cell labs have observed is that when you induce cellular reprogramming, cells look younger", says another Salk Institute Research Associate and first author of the study, Alejandro Ocampo.

The researchers also reported positive results in tests on human cells in the laboratory.

Leonard Guarente, who studies the biology of aging at MIT, said, "This is huge", citing the novelty of the finding and the opportunity it creates to slow down, if not reverse, aging. The process would ultimately make humans regain their youth and may lead to longer lives.

Scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California made older mice more youthful by using a new technique that takes adult cells back to an embryonic status. Because the mice who responded aged prematurely, it's unknown if the experiment will have the same effect on regular mice. (Left) impaired muscle fix in aged mice; (right) improved muscle regeneration in aged mice subjected to reprogramming.

Cellular reprogramming turns an adult cell, such as a skin cell, into an induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell. However, one major side effect the scientists discovered is that when live animals undergo the procedure, the subjects become more susceptible to cancer.

The method has other limits: the Yamanaka factors trigger rapid cell division-critical in growing embryos, but in adults, potentially deadly: that sort of growth can quickly lead to tumors. And the results of animal studies often fail to be duplicated in humans. But he says he wants to see evidence that resetting the epigenetic marks increases longevity in healthy animals and that it works in parts of the body, such as the central nervous system, where cell replacement is limited.

The second consisted of mice genetically engineered to model a fatal childhood disease, Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome. Both mice and humans with progeria show many signs of aging including DNA damage, organ dysfunction and dramatically shortened lifespan.

But tampering with epigenetic marks could have a price. Their cells appeared younger-the researchers' method had literally reversed aging processes. The researchers saw striking results: The mice looked younger inside and out - they showed less curvature of their spine with age, and their organ function improved.

Researchers at the Salk Institute in the U.S. discovered that intermittent expression of genes normally associated with an embryonic state can reverse the hallmarks of old age.

Researchers say they have found a way to rejuvenate old cells. "It gives us exciting insights into which pathways could be targeted to delay cellular aging". When it was used for a short period, the pancreas and muscles showed improved regeneration.

In addition to a longer lifespan, the treated animals' health also received a boost, with the mice showing improved cardiovascular and organ functions.

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