Authors of a report written for The Salk Institute have described in a recent paper published 7th of March 2022 in Nature.com how they can slow down the aging of mice.
The research from the Salk Institute suggests that they can slow down the aging of mice, but they were also able to do this without any other detrimental health effects to the mice.
Nick Lavars writer for newatlas.com summarising the research, states ‘Not only did the mice exhibit no neurological or blood cell changes, nor signs of cancers, they in many ways resembled more youthful animals. Epigenetic patterns typical of younger mice were observed in the kidneys and skin, while the skin cells were able to proliferate and minimize scarring following injury, a capability that typically declines with age. Metabolic molecules in the blood, meanwhile, did not show the typical age-related changes.
The study ‘In vivo partial reprogramming alters age-associated molecular changes during physiological aging in mice’ builds upon the Salk Institute’s previous research testing mice with Yamanaka factors.
Yamanaka factors can be used to create cells that can become any cell in the body, often called iPSCs (Induced pluripotent stem cells). Yamanaka factors control how DNA is copied for translation into other proteins.
Previously Yamanka factors have been used in research to help stem cells trigger muscle regeneration; such research is focussed on how to ‘regenerate muscles after injuries, or to slow muscle loss during the aging process or disease.’
Also, Yamanka factors have been used in research to restore vision in Mice with Glaucoma.
Carlos Izpisua Belmonte from the Salk Institute, co-author of the paper, states, “We are elated that we can use this approach across the life span to slow down aging in normal animals … The technique is both safe and effective in mice. In addition to tackling age-related diseases, this approach may provide the biomedical community with a new tool to restore tissue and organismal health by improving cell function and resilience in different disease situations, such as neurodegenerative diseases. “
This new research demonstrates how Yamanaka factor molecules can reverse signs of aging in middle-aged and elderly mice.
The following age groups of mice were observed and injected with Yamanaka factors:
- Group one: aged 15 to 22 months, equivalent to 50 to 70 human years.
- Group two: aged 12 to 22 months, equivalent to 35 to 70 human years.
- Group three: aged 25 months, equivalent to 80 human years.
What scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered:
- Yamanaka factors can be used to reset the molecular clock found in the body’s cells, ‘They do so by returning unique patterns of chemicals known as epigenetic markers, which evolve through aging, to their original states.’.
- Scientists can use Yamanaka factors to ‘convert adult cells back into stem cells, that can then differentiate into different cell types.
- Using the same approach, scientists can ‘reverse signs of aging in mice with a premature aging disease and improve the function of tissues found in the heart and brain.’
These findings concur with evidence from a separate study by Stanford University scientists who used the technique to give elderly mice the muscle strength of younger mice.
The purpose of the Salford Institutes’ study was to investigate the effects of Yamanaka factors on middle-aged / older healthy animals, ‘to ascertain not just whether the approach conferred anti-aging benefits, but also whether it brought on any adverse health effects.
The question of whether creating solutions for anti-aging has adverse health effects is an interesting one.
Reversing aging without harming health
Other researchers Paul Nelsona and Joanna Masela from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona recently published a paper indicating that it is impossible to stop aging in multicellular organs. If you try and stop aging processes, it can make cells become increasingly cancerous. Mathematically immortality doesn’t seem to be possible.
The Salk Institute really wanted to establish that their approach of preventing aging in mice is safe.
“Indeed, we did not see any negative effects on the health, behavior or body weight of these animals.” said Pradeep Reddy, a Salk scientist.
Future research into reversing aging
Scientists at the Salk Institute now plan to investigate ‘the influence the Yamanaka factors might have on specific molecules and genes‘.
They intend to show how long the effects of the gene therapy last in future studies and create new ways to deliver the therapies.