Humans could live forever as scientists reverse ageing process

Ageing gracefully… PHOTO CREDIT:

*New drugs remove wrinkles, keep skin youthful, extend life expectancy by 30 years

Research at the Mayo Clinic, a medical research centre based in Minnesota, United States (U.S.), have developed anti-ageing drugs called ‘senolytics’ which can wash away senescent cells – otherwise known as zombie cells as they no longer work to their full potential. These senescent cells are then replaced by newer cells which can help slow down the ageing process, scientists found.

Researchers at the clinic have been running experiments on mice and found their life had been extended by 36 percent, which is the equivalent of adding around 30 years to a human life.

Clinical geriatrician, Dr. James Kirkland, Director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Ageing at Mayo Clinic, told the Telegraph: “Most people don’t want to live to 130 and feel like they’re 130 but they wouldn’t mind living to 90 or 100 and feel like they’re 60. And now that can actually be achieved in animals.

“Ageing itself is the highest risk factor for most of the chronic diseases. And if you get one age-related disease, you’ve got a huge chance of having several.

“You tend to find older individuals who are completely healthy and are playing 18 rounds of golf a day, or they’ve got three, five or 10 different conditions. There aren’t too many people in between.

“Around 10 years ago we began to explore the notion that ageing may be an upstream cause of all of these conditions and not only be a risk factor but could actually be causal.

“And therefore if you targeted fundamental ageing processes it might be possible to delay, prevent or alleviate these chronic conditions as a group instead of going after them one at a time.

“It’s much more like developing an antibiotic. Antibiotics will treat 25 different conditions, we’re trying to do the same thing.”

Certain sections of researchers want to class ageing as a disease, due to the way it breaks down and destroys cells in the same way regular diseases do.

Ageing damage passes through cells, a process known as cellular senescence, a process which also happens with the likes of cancer, eventually leading to tissue dysfunction and related health impacts – or put simply, getting old.

Older cells are less able to turn genes on and off to react to the environment which makes us more vulnerable to diseases which ultimately kill us off.

Researchers believe the drug could be available to the market in as little as two years.

Also, saggy, wrinkled faces could soon be a thing of the past as researchers have identified a key mechanism of how skin ages.

Scientists have discovered a key protein compound, which could represent ‘a new anti-ageing intervention’.

Two drugs have been created which offer hope that a fountain of youth could be developed in the future.

The drugs work by boosting levels of a certain protein, which is found in high levels in young skin cells, but begins to dwindle over time as we age.

When the levels of this protein drop, skin cells appear older, misshapen and less elastic. They also appear thinner and become blotchier and more fragile.

As long as lots of cells are being born deep below the surface of the skin with high levels of the protein, the skin appears youthful.

In a ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario, these healthier skin cells out-compete the weaker ones, which go on to die.

But over time, fewer strong skin cells are born and the weaker ones take over, creating a wrinkly appearance to the skin.

In addition, stress, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, or sun damage can also reduce levels of the protein, called COL17A1.

But giving hope to anyone who wishes for a more youthful appearance, researchers said they have found a way to boost its levels.

As well as recreating youthful looks, the drugs have potential to help wound healing and even to prevent skin cancer, the researchers suggest.

Emi Nishimura, from Tokyo Medical and Dental School, and colleagues made the discovery in mice and in human skin tissue grown in the laboratory.

The compounds have yet to be tested on living humans.

Writing in the journal Nature, the authors said they discovered two chemical compounds that boosted COL17A1.

The chemicals, Y27632 and apocynin, when applied to the skin, ‘significantly promoted wound repair’ by boosting the production of skin cells with high levels of COL17A1, the authors wrote.

The discovery ‘points towards directions for facilitating skin regeneration and reducing skin ageing,’ they said.

Commenting on the discovery, Ganna Bilusova and James DeGregori, both of the University of Colorado, suggest that the discovery may also help prevent tumours forming.

They wrote, the ‘maintenance of fit stem cells through the years in which an individual is likely to reproduce probably also prevents tumour development, because these fit cells compete with (and eliminate) both damaged stem cells and tumour-prone cells’.

They added that the work ‘provides evidence that healthy cells in mammals can also efficiently repopulate adult tissues, replacing unfit or damaged cells.

“Both chemicals improve wound healing in mouse tail skin, providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of the therapeutic potential of this new class of drug.”

The development also points the way to regenerate other organs apart from the skin, Professor Bilusova and Professor DeGregori wrote.

“Future studies are needed to determine the mechanisms of cell competition in other tissues, and to identify compounds capable of reversing ageing in other organs.”

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