Scientists today know that our cells accumulate damage to DNA over time. Some cells successfully correct the damage, while others destroy themselves. And the third – pensioner – stops growing or sharing and enters what we call aging. With increasing age, the number of such cells in the body increases and over time they become involved in the health problems associated with the aging process. In an article published in the journal Nature, researchers removed the body of mice from old cells, which significantly improved rodent health and even extended the life of some.
Aging body cells – the cause of poor health in old age
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine (USA) made an amazing discovery: they managed to slow aging and significantly improve the condition of kidneys, heart and adipose tissue in rodents. After cleaning the body from old cells, the animals were healthier and in some cases lived longer. According to The Atlantic, the work is possibly the most important discovery in the study of aging in history. But how did scientists do it?
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In 2004, the study's authors mistakenly found that deactivating a gene called BubR1, which they originally thought was cancer-related, actually accelerated the aging process. Cataracts have occurred in mice, heart disease has occurred and weight loss has been observed. As a result, all rodents that separated the BubR1 gene died much earlier than mice that did not separate the gene. The researchers later found that a lot more aging cells accumulated in their bodies. By 2011, the team had already developed a method for isolating and removing these cells in mice in which the BubR1 gene was deactivated. The results were impressive: when the aging cells disappeared, the health of the rodents improved considerably. The researchers' next step was to remove old cells from the body of normal mice.
Healthy middle-aged mice whose genome was not edited were cleaned of aging cells twice a week. This time the researchers managed to increase the average life expectancy of rodents by a quarter. As the mice grew older, they lost less fat, the heart and kidneys were in good condition, and the development of cataracts decreased markedly. In addition, all rodents have become more active. To check the results, the researchers tested a large number of mice of both sexes with different genetic characteristics and nutritional differences – and the results were always the same.
Is there a cure for aging?
The main reason for the negative effects of aging on health is that aging cells secrete inflammatory molecules and enzymes that destroy connective tissue. During the study, scientists isolated 50 to 60 different molecules that these cells produce. Each of these molecules can significantly damage the body's tissues. Therefore, the accumulation of damage in the DNA may lead to cancer. The molecules that secrete aging cells cause the immune system to purify them. With increasing age, however, the immune system is weakened and aging cells accumulate. This makes molecules not a solution, but a problem.
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The fact that cleaning the body of old cells has a positive effect on the health of rodents is astonishing and, in a sense, logical given the weak immune system in old age. But will such a procedure be safe for humans? Most likely, any attempt to cleanse aging cells in humans will have serious side effects and obvious benefits. In one way or another, more research is needed. At present, the scientists intend to use the results in the treatment of diseases caused by aging cells and localized in certain parts of the body. But in any case, these are really revolutionary results. It is possible that there will be a drug in the future that will slow down the aging process.