CHANGES TO SINGLE GENES CAN SLOW AGING
Who would’ve guessed that altering the activity of only a single gene, the aging gene (MCIR), could dramatically affect aging? Several dozen of such genes are now known. In the most spectacular case, disabling one gene increases mouse longevity by more than 50%.
REMOVING CELLS DAMAGED BY AGING IMPROVES HEALTH
As we age, some of our cells, which once could replicate to repair damage to our tissues, permanently stop dividing when they themselves become damaged. These senescent cells have recently been discovered to cause more damage by secreting harmful molecules. A long-time controversy has been whether senescent cells really had any damaging impact on us. We now know that they do – and why. Most exciting is the further discovery that removing these senescent cells not only preserves heart and kidney health but also prevents cancer in mice. The next step will be testing whether these health benefits can be extended to humans.
YOUNG BLOOD HAS REJUVENATING PROPERTIES
Maybe Dracula had a point. Several research groups have now shown that transfusing the blood of young mice into older mice rejuvenates the older’s muscles, heart and brain. Although the identity of the molecules in young blood that causes this rejuvenation is still uncertain, researchers are curious to learn if young humans have similar rejuvenation molecules in their blood. The good news is that preliminary human trials on the rejuvenating effects of young blood are already underway.
EXERCISE HAS MORE HEALTH BENEFITS THAN ANYONE EXPECTED
It’s hardly news that exercise improves cardiovascular health, reduces body fat, and lowers blood sugar, but recent research shows that exercise also preserves brain health. If it were a drug, exercise would be considered a miracle drug for health preservation.
RESTRICTING CALORIES PRESERVES HEALTH
For many years, researchers have known that dramatically reducing calories dramatically preserves health, at least in laboratory animals. But extreme dieting was never considered to be a viable prescription for people. We like to eat too much. News research, however, suggests that eating less of certain food components such as protein, or even less of just a certain amino acid, methionine, may preserve health without calorie restriction.
SEVERAL DRUGS HAVE ALREADY BEEN DISCOVERED THAT PRESERVE LIFE AND HEALTH IN MICE
Six of the first 19 drugs tested in mice have been successful at extending life. This is a stunning success rate, which affirms how deeply researchers now understand the underlying biology of aging. The most thoroughly study of these drugs, rapamycin (an antifungal agent), has been shown to delay mouse versions of Alzheimer’s disease and even improve memory. In several studies, it also preserved heart function, prevented several types of cancer, and improved vaccine response in older adults. More drugs identified from basic aging research are in the pipeline.
The field of aging research has learned a lot in just over 30 years. Just imagine where we’ll be in the next 30, 10, or even five years. Thankfully, most of us will be around long enough to find out. Click here to read the full article.