Home > Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia & Brain Health > Biomedical Researchers Have Reversed Aging In Mice

Biomedical Researchers Have Reversed Aging In Mice

The news could mean a remake of the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but with a much happier conclusion. Based on the 1922 fictional short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the movie plot is about a boy who is born with the appearance and physical traits of an elderly man. Because of his odd malady, he ages in reverse, growing younger as time goes by. His female love interest throughout the film is normal, creating the heart-wrenching scenario of the boy ultimately dying as an infant in the arms of his elderly lover. Harvard scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute say for the first time they have partially reversed age-related degeneration in mice, resulting in new growth of the brain and testes, causing the return of lost cognitive function and improved fertility. The findings in the study, recently reported in the online version of the British journal, Nature, is perhaps a vital step in understanding what causes us to age and how to prevent it.

Scientists said they achieved the milestone in aging science by engineering mice with a controllable telomerase gene. Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of the chromosomes in our body’s cells. The chromosomes are the string-like collections of genes in each cell’s nucleus.  Each time a cell splits, the telomeres at the end of its chromosomes shrink a little. Early in life, an enzyme that the body produces, called telomerase, rebuilds the telomeres. But as we age, the body stops producing telomerase and the telomeres are not rebuilt. They continue to shrink each time the cells reproduce. Eventually the telomeres reach a certain critical size and the cells stop reproducing. When our cells stop reproducing, we begin to experience the symptoms of aging caused by tissue degeneration throughout our body. By creating mice with a telomerase switch, the researchers were able to generate prematurely aged mice. The switch allowed the scientists to find out whether reactivating telomerase in the animals would restore and reverse the signs and symptoms of aging. The work showed a dramatic reversal of many aspects of aging, including reversal of brain disease and infertility as mentioned above.

The results may be powerful evidence that telomeres are indeed the key to aging. If somehow our own bodies could keep on producing telomerase, we would not age. We could remain youthfully vigorous indefinitely. Of course, this does not mean immortality is around the corner. Humans would still be subject to diseases, illnesses and accidents. Most significant in the findings is that diseases associated with advanced age, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and many forms of cancer, could be diminished to the vanishing point if our body’s cells remained youthful. That reality is still a long way from the Harvard work with laboratory mice; however, it could ultimately affect the human quest to prevent aging and the diseases that often strike as we grow older.

Trivia:  A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes and other regulatory elements. DNA contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms, in other words it determines the unique characteristics of who we are.

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About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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