I’ve written before about anti-aging advances, so this shouldn’t be shocking news for RCS regulars, but it is an example of what I’ve written before (e.g. here), namely, that we’re getting closer to true anti-aging technologies and perhaps what DeGrey calls the “longevity escape velocity,” the point at which we can extend our lives long enough to keep extending it indefinitely with further advances (here).
As the article notes, it’s too soon to know if this (and other) anti-aging techniques will prove useful for humans - but there’s definitely a chance. Also, I was quite pleased to read that this was an advance in stem cell research, considering all the controversy and complaints about it. So, give it a bit of time. Major scientific advances don’t happen overnight. It needs intelligent and devoted people, funding, and perhaps a bit of luck.
(Hat tip to ohyeahdevelopmentalbiology for the link.)
Aging mice can be made “young” again, according to findings one scientist initially found unbelievable.
The key is muscle-derived stem cells, which—like other stem cells—are unspecialized cells that can become any type of cell in the body. When injected with muscle stem cells from young mice, older mice with a condition that causes them to age rapidly saw a threefold increase in their life spans, said study co-author Johnny Huard, a stem-cell expert at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Pittsburgh.
Curious if these deficient stem cells contribute to aging, Huard and colleagues injected stem cells from young, healthy mice into the fast-aging mice about four days before the older animals were expected to die. To Huard’s astonishment, the treated mice lived an average of 71 days—50 more than expected, and the equivalent of an 80-year-old human living to be 200, he said. Not only did the animals live longer, they also seemed healthier, the scientists found.
The “drastic” results bore out with repeated experiments, leaving the scientists to wonder how exactly the stem cells were working their magic, Huard said… The scientists went back to the lab to test another idea: that stem cells secrete some kind of mysterious anti-aging substance. The team put stem cells from the fast-aging mice on one side of a flask and stem cells from normal, young mice on the other side. The two sides were separated by a membrane that prevented the cells from touching. Within days, the aging stem cells began acting “younger”—in other words, they began dividing more quickly. “We can conclude that probably normal stem cells secrete something we don’t know that seems to improve the defects in those aging stem cells,” Huard said. "If we can identify that, we have found an anti-aging protein that is going to be important" for people, said Huard…
But other scientists are cautious about how soon the discovery may help people delay the aging process or treat age-related disease…
Paul Frenette, a stem cell and aging expert at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, called the research “intriguing,” but said one of the messages for “patients is not to get too excited.” “You see all these clinics that are popping up all over the world—even in New York—where they’re injecting stem cells” into people to treat disease, even though such therapies have not been proven…
Huard could imagine a scenario in which some of a person’s stem cells are harvested at about age 20 and then injected back into his or her body at around age 50 or 55. Stem cell therapies do already exist for conditions such as incontinence and heart problems, so he thinks “we’re not that far [from applying] this approach clinically down the road.” But Huard warned that such a treatment would not mean a 55-year-old will suddenly look and feel 25 again. “The goal of doing this research is not to [be like a] movie star with a ton of money [who wants to] look great for the rest of their lives,” he said. “The goal is, if you delay aging, maybe you can delay Alzheimer’s or cardiovascular problems.” In other words, he said, such stem cell treatments would help people “age well.”
P.s. A follow-up on why I’m excited - and not scared - about this research. Here.