Life Extension Magazine April 2011
As We See It
What We Are Doing To Reverse Your Biological Age
By William Faloon
Just imagine making it to age 80, but you have not taken care of yourself. You thus suffer from severe degenerative disorders and have only a short time left to live.
Instead of letting you die, a pioneering doctor implants a compound that lengthens the telomeres in your cells. Within 30 days, there is a systemic reversal of your age-related pathologies. Not only are you functioning like a much younger person, but you’re inquiring about birth control as your sexuality and fertility has also been restored.
With your telomeres lengthened, you now can expect to live longer in better health, with the wisdom to avoid the bad habits that caused you to degenerate in the past.
Most experts would argue that this is not possible. Yet a breakthrough discovery published in the November 28, 2010, online edition of the scientific journal Nature provides evidence that age reversal may become a reality.1
This study was conducted using telomerase-deficient mice with artificially shortened life spans. The purpose was to see if the consequences of accelerated aging could be reversed in animals suffering from advanced degenerative pathologies.
The Breakthrough Findings
Telomeres are small units of DNA at the ends of our chromosomes. They are often compared to the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces. As long as these tips (telomeres) remain intact, they keep the chromosomes from fraying and the genes inside from unraveling.
As our cells divide normally, or in response to poor lifestyle choices, telomeres progressively shorten until cells become dysfunctional or die.2 When this happens, we grow older, become afflicted with the diseases of aging, and eventually die.
This same degenerative effect occurs in our stem cells with aging, which makes them progressively unable to create healthy new cells.3
There is evidence that fish oil,4 vitamin D,5 carnosine,6-8 multivitamins,9 and healthy lifestyle choices10 may slow the rate of telomere shortening. This helps explain why people who take care of themselves and use the proper supplements enjoy such profound health benefits.2,11,12
What had not been proven, until now, is what happens if telomere length is substantially restored in already severely degenerated aged organisms.1
In the Nature study, prematurely aged mice developed degenerative problems such as shrinkage of organs, inability to produce sperm, and failure of their brains to produce new neurons or to maintain the structural integrity of the myelin sheath that protects existing neurons.1
As these degenerated mice neared death, researchers induced the re-activation of the enzyme telomerase. In response to telomerase re-activation, the telomeres at the end of their chromosomes lengthened.1
After only 30 days, there was a reversal of the degenerative changes in every system the researchers tested. The brains of the treated mice not only started growing new neurons, but began to thicken the protective myelin sheath surrounding existing neurons. As one of the researchers was quoted, they were able to “reverse neurodegeneration.” 1
The treated mice produced new viable sperm, their spleen atrophy and intestinal damage were reversed, and even their sense of smell was restored (indicating restored olfactory function in their brains).1
These mice initially were on the verge of dying, but went on to live a typical life span that was longer and healthier than could ever have been imagined considering the degenerative condition they were in at the beginning of the study. In humans, this would be like restoring the health and vigor of a sickly 80-year-old to that of a young adult!
Circumventing the Harsh Realities of Aging
In the Nature study, DNA was damaged and could no longer emit signals to maintain cellular function or structure. Repair mechanisms collapsed, stem cells were compromised, and marked tissue atrophy occurred (such as brain shrinkage) along with functional impairment of organ systems.1
The significance of the Nature study is that it tested the effects of telomere lengthening in an animal model analogous in many ways to disabled elderly humans. (There were also differences in this mouse model compared to aged humans.)
It is known from human cell culture studies that restoring telomere length results in unlimited cell division potential.13-15 What has not yet been demonstrated is the effect of telomere lengthening in normally aged animals with severe tissue degeneration.
In this landmark study by Harvard-affiliated researchers, aging-accelerated mice whose telomeres were lengthened demonstrated rapid reversal of degenerative pathologies. While this is not the same as normally aged animals, it is an unprecedented demonstration of systemic age-reversal in a whole animal (in vivo) model. In this study, the aged mice with lengthened telomeres displayed new brain cell growth, restored sexual function and fertility, regeneration in every tissue examined, and a dramatically longer life span.1
The authors of the Nature study summarized their results by stating:
“In conclusion, this unprecedented reversal of age-related decline in the central nervous system and other organs vital to adult mammalian health justify exploration of telomere rejuvenation strategies for age-associated diseases, particularly those driven by accumulating genotoxic stress.” 1
There are scientific advances that forever alter the course of human history. This may be one of these advances. As you will read next, Life Extension® is not going to stand still and rely on others to carry forth this critically important rejuvenation research.
Age Reversal Can No Longer Be Ridiculed
Since the inception of the Life Extension Foundation four decades ago, we have endured harsh criticism from mainstream media and persecution by government agencies over our unwavering prediction that it will someday be possible to make older people young again.
Just last year, research we funded succeeded for the first time in reversing the aging of human cells in the laboratory—including restoring telomere length in some instances. The scientists transported aged human cells back in time to their original embryonic state, enabling them to differentiate into any cell the body might need to self-regenerate. This age-reversal study we funded was published in the peer-reviewed journal Regenerative Medicine.16
The latest study published in Nature demonstrates that it is possible to take mammals in a severely degenerated condition and systemically reverse aging pathologies using only one mechanism, i.e. telomere lengthening.
Life Extension Provides $2 Million for New Age-Reversal Project
Based on our analysis of the current state of the art, we believe there are more effective methods to restore telomere length and reverse aging processes.
In December 2010, the Life Extension Foundation provided $2 million in funding to a company called ReCyte Therapeutics (a subsidiary of BioTime, Inc.) for a new series of studies.17 The first will be on a group of mice that will utilize several cell rejuvenation mechanisms (including telomere lengthening) in a real-world model of aging.
The initial goal of this research is to rejuvenate the vascular systems of these mice in a way that protects them against heart attack and stroke. The research will also be aimed at restoring youthful bone marrow function to reverse immune senescence, thus conferring protection against cancer, infectious disease, and autoimmune disorders.18-24
If these age-reversing effects can be documented in this mouse model and other biological systems, our research funding will then be used to attempt to develop authentic rejuvenation therapies in humans.