The elixir of eternal youth may soon be reality, thanks to scientists from the Harvard University. Such a drug might not just increase life span, but also allow men and women to have children naturally until they are a ripe old age. It might free people from illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease, with skin and hair retaining its youthful lustre.
Dr. Ronald DePinho of Harvard University in the U.S. carried out the experiments and successfully reversed the effects of ageing in animals.
Before treatment, their skin, brains, guts and other organs resembled those of an 80-year-old person but within two weeks of being given a drug, the creatures had grown so many new cells that they had almost completely rejuvenated. The male mice went from being infertile to fathering large litters.
“In human terms, it would be like having a 40-year-old person who looked 80-plus and reversing the effects to the levels of a 50-year-old,” the
quoted DePinho as saying.
The breakthrough centres on structures called telomeres - tiny biological clocks that get shorter and shorter with time, raising the odds of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
But an enzyme called telomerase can rebuild the telomere caps but is normally switched off in the body. DePinho succeeded in shocking the enzyme back to life in mice that had prematurely aged in a way designed to mimic the human ageing process.
“There are multiple mechanisms that conspire to lead to ageing. So, although we think that telomeres are important, there are other factors that come into play,” DePinho said.
Dr Steven Artandi, a telomere expert at Stanford University in the U.S., described the study as ‘beautiful’ but cautioned that an anti-ageing drug is still more than ten years away.
The study results are detailed in the prestigious journal Nature.