Can aging be reversed?
Medical researchers have found a cause of ageing in animals that can be reversed, possibly paving the way for new treatments for age-related diseases including cancer, type 2 diabetes, muscle wasting and inflammatory diseases.
The researchers hope to start human trials late next year.
The study, which is published today in the journal Cell, relates to mitochondria, which are our cells' battery packs and give energy to carry out key biological functions.
The work, led by UNSW Medicine's David Sinclair, found a series of molecular events enable communication inside cells between the mitochondria and the nucleus. As communication breaks down, ageing accelerates.
"The ageing process we discovered is like a married couple — when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down," says UNSW Professor Sinclair, who is based at Harvard Medical School.
"And just like a couple, restoring communication solved the problem," says the geneticist.
The background to the research is that as we age, levels of the chemical NAD, which starts this communication cascade, decline. Until now, the only way to slow the NAD drop was to restrict calories and exercise intensively. In this work, the researchers used a compound that cells transform into NAD to repair the broken network and rapidly restore communication and mitochondrial function. It mimics the effects of diet and exercise.
While Professor Sinclair's group in Boston was working on muscles in tissue culture, colleagues at UNSW in Sydney were working on animal models to prove the work could have the same results.
"It was shocking how quickly it happened," says co-author Dr Nigel Turner, an ARC Future Fellow from UNSW's Department of Pharmacology. "If the compound is administered early enough in the ageing process, in just a week, the muscles of the older mice were indistinguishable from the younger animals."
Mouse image via Shutterstock.
Read more at EurekAlert.