Harvard Scientists Reverse Aging in (certain) Mice

Yes - aging can be reversed. If you are a mouse, and you have a shortage of telomerase.

Laboratory mouse in a scientist's hand


The cute little white fluffy guys managed to rejuvenate their ageing organs:

"The Harvard group focused on a process called telomere shortening. Most cells in the body contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry our DNA. At the ends of each chromosome is a protective cap called a telomere. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres are snipped shorter, until eventually they stop working and the cell dies or goes into a suspended state called "senescence". The process is behind much of the wear and tear associated with ageing.

At Harvard, they bred genetically manipulated mice that lacked an enzyme called telomerase that stops telomeres getting shorter. Without the enzyme, the mice aged prematurely and suffered ailments, including a poor sense of smell, smaller brain size, infertility and damaged intestines and spleens. But when DePinho gave the mice injections to reactivate the enzyme, it repaired the damaged tissues and reversed the signs of ageing.

"These were severely aged animals, but after a month of treatment they showed a substantial restoration, including the growth of new neurons in their brains," said DePinho"

There is one major issue: the reason that we age is, more or less, cancer. It was a genetic trade-off made over millenia made to keep more of us alive, longer. You see, cancer is when cells go haywire and replicate out of control. The older that cells get, the more likely that they will go out of control.

So even if you could introduce a whole shit ton of telomerase enzyme into the human body and slow down/reverse the ageing process (it is more complex than that, but lets start there) - you would still be facing down a very high rate of cancer.

The answer, of course is simple. If we can cure cancer (and yes - we are getting better at that) we will be much more able to cure ageing. And damn would that be a good day.

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