Scientists in the Chinese capital, Beijing, have developed a new gene therapy that can neutralize some of the effects of aging in mice and extend their life, results that may one day contribute to a similar treatment for humans to delay aging, according to Reuters, Wednesday, January 20, 2021.
The method, detailed in a paper published in the journal Science Translation Medicine, involves disrupting a gene called Cat 7, which scientists have discovered is a major contributor to cell aging.
Delayed aging is “possible” in mice
Professor Zhou Jing, 40, a specialist in geriatrics and regenerative medicine from the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that the specific treatment they used and the results were the first of its kind in the world, said the co-supervisor of the project, which aims to study the possibility of delaying aging.
“After a period of six to eight months, these mice show a general improvement in appearance, grip strength, and most importantly, an extension of their lifespan by about 25%,” she added.
The team of biologists at the Chinese Academy has used a method to screen thousands of genes for those that are particularly powerful drivers of cellular aging, the term used to describe cellular aging.
Professor Chu said that they had identified 100 genes from about 10,000, and Cat 7 was the most effective in contributing to aging in cells.
This gene is one of tens of thousands of genes found in mammalian cells. The researchers inhibited it in the livers of mice using a method called a slow viral vector.
Despite this, the method is still far from ready for human trials, according to Chu. She added, “In the end, we hope that we will be able to find a way to delay aging, even in a very small way … in the future.”
This is what previous studies revealed
While studies are mostly concerned with examining the symptoms and effects of aging in the elderly, US researchers focused on studying the biological age of a large group of people in different age groups.
The study, published in the scientific journal “Proceedings”, relied on examining the health and psychological status on a regular basis of 1937 people in a New Zealand city from their birth until they reached the age of 38.
The researchers developed a mechanism to measure the speed of deficiency in the various body organs such as the kidneys, lung, liver and immune system. They also focused on changes in cholesterol, dental health and the position of blood arteries behind the eyes, which are an indicator of the state of the blood arteries in the brain.
Based on these criteria, the researchers determined the biological age of the subjects, which ranged between 28 and 61 years. “We have to start studying the aging process in young people, if we want to reduce age-related diseases,” said study author Dan Bielsky of Duke University.
Genetic and environmental factors that control aging
The result concluded that most of the study participants advanced their biological age once a year, while some were aging by 3 biological years in each time year. The researchers noted that the speed of biological aging increases in people over the age of 38.
IQ tests showed decline in this group, which indicates the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and strokes. In determining the biological age, the researchers also relied on the statements of the study subjects themselves about their suffering from climbing stairs, for example, or their feeling of a change in their general health. Study supervisor Bilxi explained that the effects of aging began to show from the age of 26.
The researchers hope that this study will lead to an understanding of the dimensions of the aging process in general, as an alternative to treating each age-related disease separately.
In this regard, Bielsky said, “The risk of us being exposed to various diseases increases as we age … The same age must be the goal of our research, so that we can prevent many diseases from occurring at the same time.”