Friday, June 14, 2024
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Can Aging Be Cured?

Aging has the potential to alter the proteins making up our genetic code and break our DNA.

However, a new anti-aging study focusing on the cellular promoters of aging may bring scientists closer to finding ways to cure aspects of growing older.

Gene expression

All organisms contain a specific set of genes – coding schemes – within DNA. Over time, stressors can change the expression of genes meaning what once was functioning well with you may become disrupted.

These disruptions cause cells to lose their identity and lose their normal function and can either die or collect like garbage if not addressed. Collectively, these alterations are referred to as epigenome modifications.1 

Inducing the aging process

To test their hypothesis regarding if aging can be cured, researchers used a process called ICE – inducible changes to the epigenome. ICE uses an enzyme causing double-stranded breaks in the DNA code without causing mutations. The process was done on mice embryos divided into ICE versus non-ICE groups.1 

After one month of the protocol, the physical appearance of ICE-mice included physical signs of aging, like fur loss and loss of pigment in their skin.

At ten months, ICE-mice showed characteristics of aging like weight loss, lowered metabolic rate, and lack of desire for movement. ICE-induced double-strand breaks were also associated with age-related changes to the epigenome and reduced cell identity.1 

Finally, using an index called the mouse fragility index, 10-12-month-old ICE-mice held the same score as 24-month-old mice while also experiencing additional age-related dysfunctions like vision loss.

Reversing the aging process 

Science is learning and teaching that cells hold a backup copy of their youthful epigenetic information. Something called Yamanaka factors seems to be one of the keys to activating the anti-aging backup information.

Evidence for Yamanaka factors arose when the researchers found ICE-mice expressing Yamanaka factors, had a reversal of some of the epigenetic-related aging variables.1  

Loss of vision was found in ICE-mice prior to Yamanaka factor expression. When Yamanaka factor was induced, anti-aging effects to eye damage was reversed.1

Additionally, five weeks after exposing ICE-mice to the Yamanaka factors, signs of aging in the mice’s kidneys and muscles were reversed.  

Can aging be cured?

Epigenetic changes could be the source of the aging process, and the results of the 2023 Cell study are promising aging solutions. Knowing that the loss of epigenetic information is a reversible contributor to aging, there is potential that aspects of aging can be cured.

With the discovery that some mammals have a backup copy of their youthful epigenetic information, exploration of more species is warranted.1 

References

  1. Yang J et al. Loss of epigenetic information as a cause of mammalian aging. Cell. 2023. https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(22)01570-7
  2. Kennedy BK et al. Redistribution of silencing proteins from telomeres to the nucleolus is associated with extension of life span in S. cerevisiae. Cell. 1997;89:381-391.https://doi.org/10.1016/S0092-8674(00)80219-6
  3. Sinclair DA, Mills K, Guarente L. Accelerated aging and nucleolar fragmentation in yeast sgs1 mutants. Science. 1997;277:1313-1316. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.277.5330.1313
Bryn Evans
Bryn Evans
I graduated with a major in biochemistry, a minor in physics, and a certificate in business from Queen’s University. My long-term goal is to become a family physician (MD) and earn a Master’s in Public Health (MPH). I am passionate about public health, mental health, & wellness. I'm currently completing a Certificate in Effective Writing for Healthcare because I recognize how important it is to communicate effectively with the public!
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