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Stop the presses.
Scientists Find Way to Partially Reverse Aging in Mice
U.S. scientists say they have partially reversed age-related degeneration in mice, leading to new brain and testes growth, improved fertility and the return of lost cognitive function, or thinking skills.
The advance in aging science was achieved by working with telomerase genes in the mice, said the team at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
The researchers developed mice with a controllable telomerase gene. (Telomerase is an enzyme that helps maintain telomeres — the protective “caps” on the ends of chromosomes.) As people age, low levels of telomerase lead to progressive erosion and shortening of the telomeres, resulting in physical and mental decline, the study authors explained in a news release from the institute.
Creating mice with a controllable telomerase switch enabled the scientists to create prematurely aged mice. The switch also enabled the team to determine that reactivating telomerase in the mice could restore telomeres and reduce the signs and symptoms of aging.
In addition, the mice did not show signs of cancer — a key concern because cancer cells can use telomerase to make themselves virtually immortal. Researchers noted that this is an important area of study for future investigation.
One important note: the aging that is reversed in this study is a rapid-aging effect due to disease a la Benjamin Button. It’s great if this rare form of rapid aging becomes treatable, but the extent to which such treatments would be applicable to regular aging is not known.
Even so, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.