Scientists developed a novel approach for genetically reprogramming cells that prolonged the life of mice by 30%, without causing them to develop tumors for the first time. Could this achievement mark another milestone on our path of ultimately reversing the process of ageing?
Old age is the leading risk factor for most diseases in the developed world, but even so, our grasp of the mechanisms involved is relatively limited. However, increasing research is being performed on the topic and epigenetic alterations have recently emerged as one of its fundamental hallmarks. Although tinkering with the expression of stemness genes (also known as the Yamanaka factors) has previously shown promising results both in vitro and in vivo, increased risk of tumorigenicity proved to be an obstacle yet to overcome.
In a study published last week, researchers from the SALK institute managed to bypass this fatal adverse effect by cleverly altering how genes are induced. Their approach was based on inducing genes in cycles, rather than inducing them over a longer time. This way, they were able to retain the rejuvenating effects in progeria mice, while preventing teratoma formation at the same time. The mice additionally exhibited no signs of dysplasia, cancer development, or induction of pluripotency in any organs analyzed.
“Ageing is a plastic process and more amenable to therapeutic interventions than we previously thought” concluded Dr Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte from the SALK institute.
Obviously bridging the gap between rodents and humans is a very tough challenge that should not be taken lightly. However, the new discovery appears to be a step in the right direction and has sparked excitement in the scientific community. Undeniably, most advances in medicine started out with our furry friends at some point.
Learn more about this promising discovery from the team itself:
By Luka Zupančič, MSc, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna