U.S. scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston say they have partially reversed age-related degeneration in mice through a controllable telomerase gene – this led to new brain and testes growth, improved fertility and the return of lost thinking skills.
I have discussed the telomerase gene and aging in previous posts and how research has indicated how low levels of telomerase leads to deterioration and shortening of the telomeres, resulting in physical and mental decline. Well the team at Dana-Farber developed mice with a controllable telomerase gene. Creating mice with a controllable telomerase gene allowed these scientists to create prematurely aged mice. This control also enabled the team to determine that reactivating telomerase in the mice could restore telomeres and reduce the signs and symptoms of aging.
According to the senior author of the study, Dr. Ronald A. DePinho said: “Whether this would impact on normal aging is a more difficult question, but it is notable that telomere loss is associated with age-associated disorders and thus restoration of telomeres could alleviate such decline.”
DePinho also said the study could be a step in the right direction for regenerative medicine because the findings suggest that dormant adult stem cells in extremely aged tissues remain viable and can be reactivated to repair tissue damage.
“If you can remove the underlying damage and stresses that drive the aging process and cause stem cells to go into growth arrest, you may be able to recruit them back into a regenerative response to rejuvenate tissues and maintain health in the aged,” he said in the release.
I believe that even though this is a great study with remarkable results, we should realize that the researchers took very sick animals and did a manipulation that basically brought those animals back to the normal state. It’s just very logical they saw positive results in those mice. I wonder what could have happened with the wild type mice after the same manipulation. Would it be just cancer, or any other results as well?