Quest to live 130 in body of 22-year-old begins
*Harvard startup commences experiments on beagles, claims it can make animals ‘younger’
While you cannot teach an old dog new trick, you may be able to make your pup young again.
A Harvard startup has begun preliminary experiments on beagles and claims it can make animals ‘younger’ by adding new Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material instructions to their bodies.
And, the firm says it could one-day work for humans, too.
Rejuvenate Bio, cofounded by George Church, is building on previous research that has shown tweaking genes in simple organisms like worms and flies can up to double their life spans.
Previous research has also shown that giving older mice blood transfusions from younger rodents can restore some biomarkers to youthful levels.
“We have already done a bunch of trials in mice and we are doing some in dogs, and then we’ll move on to humans,” Church said to podcaster Rob Reid earlier this year during an episode on bioengineering.
Church has previously said that he would sign up as a human subject should it prove safe.
Church has said the goal is to “have the body and mind of a 22-year-old but the experience of a 130-year-old.”
The company is notoriously private, but documents obtained by Massachusetts (MIT) Technology Review showed that Rejuvenate had tested its gene therapy on four beagles with Tufts Veterinary School in Boston.
Church pointed out that even if the age-reversing gene therapy does not work on humans, it could still be profitable to develop it for canines.
“Dogs are a market in and of themselves,” Church said during an event in Boston last week.
“It is not just a big organism close to humans. It is something people will pay for, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process is much faster. We’ll do dog trials, and that’ll be a product, and that’ll pay for scaling up in human trials.”
Rejuvenate Bio has already received a grant from the US Special Operations Command to look into “enhancement” of military dogs.
CRISPR-Cas9 is a tool for making precise edits in DNA, discovered in bacteria.
The acronym stands for ‘Clustered Regularly Inter-Spaced Palindromic Repeats’.
The technique involves a DNA cutting enzyme and a small tag, which tells the enzyme where to cut.
By editing this tag, scientists are able to target the enzyme to specific regions of DNA and make precise cuts, wherever they like.
It has been used to ‘silence’ genes – effectively switching them off.
When cellular machinery repairs the DNA break, it removes a small snip of DNA.
In this way, researchers can precisely turn off specific genes in the genome.
The approach has been used previously to edit the HBB gene responsible for a condition called β-thalassaemia.
In 2015, Church’s lab at Harvard began attempting to rejuvenate mice using gene therapy and the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR. Gene therapies insert DNA instructions into a virus, which then go into animal’s cells.
The lab has been testing over 60 different gene therapies on mice.
A previous study found that some dogs showed improved heart functionality just a few weeks after being given the ‘miracle drug’ Rapamycin, prompting further research into the possibility of extending the lifespan of dogs.
Rapamycin is a bacterial by-product discovered in soil at Easter Island.
It is already used in transplant patients to prevent organ rejection and scientists say it can improve learning and help treat cognitive decline.
*Culled from DailyMailUK Online
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