(Pictured are Maria A. Blasco and Bruno M. Bernardes de Jesús (co-author) in the CNIO building in Madrid. (Credit: CNIO))
A new study consisting of inducing cells to express telomerase, the enzyme which — metaphorically — slows down the biological clock — was successful. The research provides a “proof-of-principle” that this “feasible and safe” approach can effectively “improve health span.”
A number of studies have shown that it is possible to lengthen the average life of individuals of many species, including mammals, by acting on specific genes. To date, however, this has meant altering the animals’ genes permanently from the embryonic stage — an approach impracticable in humans. Researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), led by its director Mari´a Blasco, have demonstrated that the mouse lifespan can be extended by the application in adult life of a single treatment acting directly on the animal’s genes. And they have done so using gene therapy, a strategy never before employed to combat aging. The therapy has been found to be safe and effective in mice.
The results were recently published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine. The CNIO team, in collaboration with Eduard Ayuso and Fa´tima Bosch of the Centre of Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy at the Universitat Auto`noma de Barcelona (UAB), treated adult (one--year--old) and aged (two--year--old) mice, with the gene therapy delivering a “rejuvenating” effect in both cases, according to the authors.
Mice treated at the age of one lived longer by 24% on average, and those treated at the age of two, by 13%. The therapy, furthermore, produced an appreciable improvement in the animals’ health, delaying the onset of age--related diseases — like osteoporosis and insulin resistance — and achieving improved readings on aging indicators like neuromuscular coordination.