Humans have long pursued the fountain of youth, and certainly there have been extraordinary breakthroughs in years past. But there’s new evidence suggesting we may be drinking from that fountain sooner rather than later.
Researchers announced this past week that they’ve been able to reverse the aging process in mice, using a chemical that in one week made two-year-old mice tissue resemble tissue of six-month-old mice. In human years, that’s as if a 60-year-old’s cells became more like the cells of a 20-year-old.
In a paper published in the journal Cell, lead investigator Dr. David Sinclair, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues report that a compound naturally made by young cells called NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) was able to revitalize older cells and make them youthful and energetic again.
The study, a joint project between Harvard Medical School; the National Institute on Aging; and the University of New South Wales, Sydney, found that the cell nucleus and the mitochondria (the cell’s energy source) stop communicating as we age. Over time this loss of communication reduces the cell’s ability to make energy, and aging accelerates. But boosting a cell’s NAD levels, which decrease with age, helps restore communication.
“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 Sinclair. “And just like with a couple, restoring communication solved the problem.”
Dr. Ana Gomes, a postdoctoral scientist in the Harvard lab, found that by administering a compound that cells transform into NAD, the broken network can be repaired and communication and mitochondrial function rapidly restored. If the compound was given early enough, some aspects of the aging process could be reversed. She said that the research group wants to begin clinical trials in 2015: