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How the world got lost on
the road to an anti-aging pill
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November 29, 2010: by Bill Sardi
Harvard scientists say they have successfully restored youthfulness to old mice by re-activating telomerase in telomerase-deficient mice (telomerase is the enzyme that repairs the end-caps of chromosomes known as telomeres). In just one month of telomerase therapy “aged, mice, equivalent to 80-year-old humans, and were about to pass away,” were restored to “the physiological equivalent of young adults.” The report emanates from Nature Magazine today.
As spectacular as this laboratory study is, the question remains whether an experiment where mice are genetically bred to age prematurely applies to human aging. At the genetic level, human aging appears to largely involve epigenetics (switching of the TERT gene), not gene mutation as in the case of these mutated laboratory mice.
However, there are remarkable findings in this report that go overlooked. The youthful changes in these mice (their shrinking brains and sperm-producing glands got bigger, and their sense of smell returned) correlated with the lengthening of telomeres. These changes were obviously produced via epigenetic changes that countered inbred (mutational) factors. That should have been the real headline. Man’s biological destiny may not be permanently locked in his genes.
The molecule that produced age reversal, 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-OHT), is a sex-hormone-like drug. This should not be surprising. Researchers have known that estrogen is a youth hormone for some time now. This suggests that estrogen-like plant molecules (phytoestrogens) may exert similar age-reversing effects.
However, longevity seekers need to be aware, these lab animals were bred in a way that shortens their lifespan, and while the “drug” reversed these effects and the mice lived a typical lifespan, they didn’t live longer than normal mice. It’s possible, like many other similar studies, that youthfulness returns but longevity is not achieved.
ResveratrolNews.com has previously weighed in on the discussion of whether telomerase-inducing pills would theoretically be an anti-aging strategy. Our prior review gave telomerase-promoting pills a thumbs-down (read here). — © 2010 Bill Sardi, ResveratrolNews.com Not for posting on other websites.
After being given a sex-hormone-like drug (4-OHT) for 30 days, telomeres, the end-caps of chromosomes, lengthened in lab mice bred to be deficient in telomerase (picture on right).
Age-related brain shrinkage was reversed. See graphic above. (Bottom row across, mouse brain at left has shrunk, only to be restored to near-normal size with 4-OHT.)