Some scientists have claimed recently that they have been able to reverse all signs of age degeneration in mice. This success translates into an improvement in the fertility rate and new brain tissue growth of rodents. In time, it is seen that this advancement can also be made useful for humans.

A group of scientists at Harvard University’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston have reported that their experiment to reverse all signs of aging in mice had been a success. They were able to do this by tweaking a specific gene that protects the cells from the collective effect of aging. This particular gene is connected to the production of structures at the ends of DNA chromosomes called telomeres.

The telomeres can be compared to the plastic-like caps on the ends of shoe laces that protect the laces from tussling. Applying this to chromosomes, the telomeres act as protectors of the DNA from chemical and radiation exposures, which are considered environmental attacks. However, as soon as the cells divide, the telomeres become shorter. This will later on lead to DNA damage, as well as ageing. On the particular research done with mice, the scientists were able to switch off the telomerase gene, thus resulting to age-related impairments. But once the scientists turned the genes on once again, the rodents’ age-related impairments were reversed.

According to the lead researcher Mariela Jaskelioff, the fertility of the mice was restores as soon as the telomerase were turned on. In addition, the scientists saw a significant positive effect on the intestinal lining and the brain. Jaskelioff admitted that these effects were unexpected. She further reported that they saw a decrease in the size of the brains of the mice when exposed to premature ageing. Luckily, this could be reversed by simply reactivating the telomerase.

The scientists used mice that had ages which were equivalent to old that of an 80 to 90 years old human. The researchers were able to restore them to their middle age by reactivating the telomerase gene.

Though results were encouraging, this doesn’t mean that you can achieve an eternal life by gene manipulation. According to Jaskelioff, the telomerase is only involved in the growth of normal and cancerous cells. She adds however that an adult human accumulates mutations throughout the lifetimes. Reactivating the telomerase in cells that characterize malignant mutations would intensify the development of cancer.

Jaskelioff, however, said that there may be a possibility to stimulate the telomerase gene for a short period of time for people with a rare disorder that causes premature ageing.

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