A new study published in the journal Cell on December 15th, 2016, suggests that scientists may be able to prevent cells from degenerating due to old age. The process would ultimately make humans regain their youth and may lead to longer lives.
However, even though the results so far are promising, the researchers say that more time is needed in order to counteract possible long-term side effects and come up with a safe way to make the cells turn into younger versions of themselves.
According to the new findings, the researchers say they found a way to rejuvenate old cells and increase life span by approximately 30 percent. In mice, that is, so far. Furthermore, the population that received the treatment also experienced accelerated recovery from injuries, with cells healing faster than normal.
Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte at Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory located in La Jolla, California believes that humans could be able to control their aging process in the future.
According to the researchers, turning on the Yamanaka factors, four genes that reside in human cells that the scientists have cultivated in the lab, converts the cells to a state much similar to those of human embryos’. However, one major side effect the scientists discovered is that when live animals undergo the procedure, the subjects become more susceptible to cancer.
Lab Mice Trials
In their experiments, the researchers came up with a way to turn on the Yamanaka factors in mice suffering from progeria. This condition refers to an illness that promotes premature aging in the mice population. When the subjects were treated with doxycycline, the researchers started to see some astonishing results. 8-week old mice suffering from the disease who received the treatment displayed less curvature of the spine associated with old age and looked younger overall. Moreover, the organ functions also improved considerably.
The researchers also treated mice who aged naturally. In this case, the subjects’ cells developed a remarkable capacity for fast regeneration, with cells in the pancreas and muscles healing at faster rates than those of the mice population who hadn’t received the treatment.
However, the scientists are fully aware that more insight in needed so that one day humans could benefit from these results, as well. Nevertheless, researchers keep their hopes up.
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