Drug reverses aging in animal tests

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

aging mice
Wow, I feel like a whole new mouse! Running wheel, here I come.

We get older with every single moment that passes, and there’s no way to stop the process of aging… at least not yet. While it’s fun to grow up from a kid, to a teen, and then to an adult, there comes a time when the benefits of aging start to work against our body’s health! However, researchers managed to create a drug that made mice young again, and it may just be our ticket to immortality.

The research experiment focused on mitochondria – the powerhouses in our cells responsible for producing energy. These structures usually communicate with the nucleus – a cell’s main control center. However, as we age, the two talk less and less. The researchers determined that the breakdown is cause by a decreased production of a chemical known as NAD.

When NAD levels drop, the mitochondria produce less energy, which ultimately leads to aging. “The aging process we discovered is like a married couple – when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down,” said David Sinclair, a professor at Harvard Medical School. “And just like a couple, restoring communication solved the problem.”

In order to restore communication, the researchers injected a chemical into mice which they could convert into NAD. Amazingly, it worked. Two-year-old mice muscles began to look more like those of a six-month-old’s in terms of mitochondrial function. That is the equivalent of turning a 60-year-old human muscle into that of a 20-year-old. “It was shocking how quickly it happened,” said Nigel Turner, a pharmacologist from University of New South Wales. “If the compound is administered early enough in the aging process, in just a week, the muscles of the older mice were indistinguishable from the younger animals.” He also said that mice appeared to be “supercharged,” so this treatment could be really healthy.

As promising as these results are however, it may not be the answer to reverse aging just yet. “Aging is multi-factorial, it’s not just one component we can fix, so it’s hard to target the whole thing,” explained Dr. Ana Gomes, from the department of genetics at Harvard Medical. “I believe there is a lot of cross-talk in cells and energy is very important in a cell and likely to be a very big component of aging that might cause some of the other things that happen with aging.”

Additionally, there is still a ton of research that needs to be conducted for any long-term effects before they test their compound on humans. However, if all goes well, their discovery could possibly be used to treat chronic (persistent) illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.

Featured image courtesy of Ian MacKenzie on Wikimedia. Image of mouse courtesy of Rama on Wikimedia.