Aging Reversed?

By | November 28, 2010
Mice with different coat colors.

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Stop the presses.

Before you complete our latest survey, consider this:

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.

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  • stephentg

    One theory of aging is that it, aging, works to defeat cancer. Whether potentially cancerous cells commit suicide, or whether cancerous cells are attacked and killed by the immune system, the result is the same – dead cells. Accumulate enough dead cells and you get an aged and infirm body.

    But with cancer as an ever-present threat, we face the ironic possibility that we live as long as we do because we age.

    What if a treatment like this worked great but left the patient dead of cancer in a year or two?

    My guess is that this treatment would not be given to cancer patients. And those patients who would be given this care might first have to undergo prophylactic chemotherapy.


    Suppose age-reversal were to become available at an enormous cost. Whom do you suppose would be the first to receive it? Would there be a revolution if it were provided only to the wealthy?

  • stephentg

    Technology like this often starts expensive and only marginally effective. It quickly gets cheaper and better at the same time.

    Revolutions tend to occur because of permanent inequity. I would guess that by the time that a revolution got organized, the tech would be avaiable to everyone.


    I’m Sally Morem

    Some researchers think cancer will help us with aging research. Cancer apparently resets cells so that they are more like embryotic cells, no longer specialized, older cells. If researchers can figure out how to do the same safely, they could regrow damaged limbs and organs, and make the entire body young again.