Verge of the Fountain of Youth


Is it possible to delay aging? Sure, through diet, exercise, clean air - all to reduce the damage to our cells, and our DNA.

But what about reversing aging? Two studies show cell reprogramming reversed aging in mice.

About a decade ago, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, a stem cell biologist, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for a method that reprograms adult cells into stem cells that can be prodded into forming any cell in the body. In other words, return cells to their most youthful state.

It relied on a mixture of 4 genes or proteins called Yamanaka factors. In the new studies, these factors restored a cell's epigenome, marks found on DNA, which essentially reversed aging.

Changes to our epigenome ages us. They're like traffic lights inside our cells that regulate gene activity. In a mouse model, Yamanaka factors called OSK were introduced into cells of old mice.

Researchers saw that the epigenome began to resemble that in younger mice. Their lifespan was also moderately extended. Another study showed that when mouse DNA was damaged, it changed the epigenome and the mice began to show aging - hair loss, frailty, and tissue damage.

But when OSK factors were introduced into these mice, many of the aging changes in their vision, muscle tissue, and kidneys were reversed.

What this shows is that scientists can move an animal's age forward or backward by manipulating the epigenome. It's remarkable but researchers may be onto a biological time machine.

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More Information

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