Fountain of Youth Discovered? Scientists Reverse Ageing Process in Mice
It seems that the scientists managed to regenerate the bodies of the mice, and they are optimistic that the processes which they used for the rodents might be useful for the humans as well. Even of they will not be able to regenerate the humans as they did with the mice, they are optimistic that they might be able to slow down the ageing process, which could prove to be very useful. It is a known fact that the old age is related to numerous illnesses, two of the most dangerous being dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and it is believed that by slowing down the ageing process these diseases could be avoided. Ronald DePinho was the leader of the experiment, and he said that he was shocked when he saw the results. The main task of the experiment was to slow down the ageing process, but it seems that it was much more efficient than that, as the organs of the mice regenerated.
He said that the same thing might be achieved in the case of the humans, especially if the technology will evolve in the future. The scientists might find a way of helping the organs to regenerate, which might mean that the humans might be able to avoid certain diseases. Not too many things are known about the ageing process for the moment, but it is a known fact that ageing is influenced by numerous external factors. Smoking, drinking, being exposed to ultraviolet light, and so on, might cause an increase development of the free radicals, which are particles from the body which damage the cells. They are produced by the body, but they are not very damaging, unless the external factors come into play.
The scientists from Harvard were able to accomplish this task, by “messing” with the telomere. The telomere is the protective cap which is located at the end of each chromosome. Think of it as the protective cap of a shoelace. When the cap of a shoelace is broken or removed, the shoelace can no longer be used. A similar thing happens with the telomere, in the sense that when it is destroyed, the cell which it protected will get destroyed as well. The scientists removed the telomere from certain mice, and as a result they aged prematurely. However, when they injected the mice with a substance that had the task of reactivating the enzyme, the process of regeneration started. DePinho said that the mice were obviously affected by the aging process, and that when they received the treatment, they started to change. They became more energetic, more agile, and their organs started to regenerate.
It might be very difficult to repeat the process in the case of the humans, because the human body stops the production of the telomeres when the humans become adults. This is a defense mechanism, as the human body wants to make sure that the cells do not grow out of control, which might increase the risk of developing cancer. This means that the scientists need to find a way of removing the risks associated with the treatment, and they believe that the best way of doing it would be to administer the injections only to the young people, and only in very small doses. The people who have undetected clumps of cancer cells in their bodies are in a higher risk of developing the disease because of the treatment.
Lynne Cox, who is a biochemist at Oxford University, stated that the experiment proved to be very beneficial, as it might lead to further discoveries in the domain. However, she admitted that there is a huge difference between mice and men, and even of none of the mice developed cancer, the situation might be different in the case of men. Tom Kirkwood, who is the director of the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University, said that the discovery is important, but that more research is required in the domain. He said that it is obvious that the telomeres are responsible for old aging, but that they might also be responsible for the development of cancer, which makes the situation kind of complicated.11