a report by By Neil Bowdler Science reporter, BBC News
Scientists are slowly unlocking the secrets of ageing, and some suggest treatments may soon be at hand to slow or even reverse the ageing process.
Could such treatments induce cancers in humans, for example, and what about the world’s burgeoning population and the West’s „pension time bomb“?
The ageing process is a complex one, and for long remained an impenetrable mystery, but progress is now being made.
Late last year, a team at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston published a Nature paper in which they detailed the reversing of the ageing process in mice.
They targeted the chromosomes that reside within the nuclei of all cells, and specifically telomeres, caps at the tips of chromosomes. The telomeres protect the chromosomes from damage, but also shorten with age, until the cells are no longer able to replicate.
“By understanding the ageing process, we can help combat arthritis, diabetes and heart disease”
Professor Tim Spector King’s College London
Professor Ronald DePinho and colleagues manipulated the enzyme that regulates these tips – known as telomerase – and witnessed dramatic results. Mice engineered to lack the enzyme aged prematurely, but when the enzyme was replaced, the mice appeared to rewind the clock.