June 17, 2024

Chemical cocktail offers “power to reverse aging with one pill”

Most of us begrudgingly accept aging as a part of life – but maybe we don’t have to. A new study led by scientists at Harvard Medical School has identified chemical cocktails that can restore cells to a more youthful state, paving the way for aging-reversal treatments that are more accessible than gene therapy.

The genome may contain all the genetic data needed to make an organism, but it is not the whole picture. An additional layer of information sits on top of it called the epigenome, which directs different cells to express specific genes that are critical to their function. To put it another way, the genome is like a thick instruction manual and the epigenome is the content program that directs heart cells to the chapter related to their job, brain cells to its chapter, etc.

In 2006, a team of Japanese scientists discovered molecules called Yamanaka factors that reprogram the epigenome to return adult cells to a stem cell state. This Nobel Prize-winning work has since fueled research into induced pluripotent stem cells and anti-aging treatments.

The Harvard Medical School team previously used gene therapy to deliver Yamanaka factors into mice, which effectively “reboot” the epigenome and reverse signs of aging. However, gene therapy can be expensive and difficult to administer to patients, so in the new study the researchers screened for chemicals that could work in the same way.

They set up systems of cell samples exposed to different chemicals and monitored them for specific protein markers that indicated cell health, distinguishing between young, old and senescent (or inactive) cells. In doing so, the team identified six chemical cocktails that appeared to return the cells to younger states. Even better, this aging reversal happened within a week.

“Until recently, it was the best we could do slow getting old. New discoveries suggest we can now reverse it,” said David Sinclair, lead scientist of the study. “This process previously required gene therapy, which limited its widespread use.”

The researchers say that this type of epigenetic treatment could not only reverse aging, but prevent or treat common diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Of course, there is still much more work to be done. Animal testing must follow, before any human trials could finally be carried out. But still, it is interesting that ill health due to aging may not be as inevitable as we think.

“This new discovery offers the opportunity to reverse aging with a single pill, with applications ranging from improving eyesight to effectively treating age-related diseases,” said Sinclair.

The research was published in the journal Getting old.

Source: Getting old

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