blue double-helix models in the background
It is understood that know degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer can make a person the “golden years” look pretty dismal. However, there is some hope on the horizon thanks to some new research from England. A research team at the University of Exeter has found a way to possibly stave off these diseases by making older cells act and look like younger.
Older cells tend to stop dividing (or splicing) as people age, which can lead to a range of degenerative diseases. The body cleans itself of these cells, most of the time, but they can start to pile up as an older immune system begins to break down.
“We had seen of the population and the old cells that the splicing factors are downregulated as we grow older, so you can’t adjust to the challenges in your internal and external environment,” study leader and University of Exeter Professor of Molecular Genetics Lorna Harries told Fox News. “What we don’t know is whether these changes were a cause of aging or just an effect.”
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The researchers found the inspiration of resveratrol, a chemical found naturally in chocolate, blueberries and red wine. Harries had seen some reports that suggested the chemical was able to turn back on a few of the 170 different splicing factors, and wondered if resveratrol could moderate levels of the rest of them.
But experts say that it does not start downing red wine just yet.
“We are really not trying to tell people that chocolate or red wine makes you look younger or live longer,” Harries said. “This is how many of the media have painted!”
Although resveratrol the regenerative effects are documented for, Harries and her team found that the creation of a substance that can mimic resveratol the regenerative mechanism was more effective than resveratrol itself.
“In fact, we had not only to make use of resveratrol, as this compound has many other effects,” she explained. “In cooperation with the colleagues from the University of Brighton, we made a series of other chemical substances that resembled that of resveratrol, but are not identical and had different properties, which allowed us to isolate the effects on the splicing factor levels of the other effects of resveratrol.”
The team experimented with the new connection, the testing of the effects on live human cells in a lab. To their surprise, the cells started to rejuvenate.
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“I had expected that we would be able to see what changes in splicing factor levels, but we really can’t counted on to make such obvious changes in the levels of the old cells in the cell population,” Harries added. “That was something of a surprise.”
The team is of the opinion that instead of every degenerative disease of aging with a unique cause, a lot of them actually share common causes, and that the changes in splicing factor expression may be just one of these. By addressing these causes, in theory, you could attack from a number of diseases at the same time, including common diseases in the elderly, such as cancer, heart disease, dementia and diabetes.
So when can we get this technology to work? Unfortunately, Harries predicts at least 20 to 30 years away.
“We need to pinpoint exactly how the splicing factors have been allowing the cells to rejuvenate, and identify the main points where we can help to stop them decreases as we age, or to restore them once the damage is done,” she said. “We are now working with the reason why the splicing factors off as we age, and what the downstream consequences of this are for the regulation of the genes and the behavior of our cells, and also look for new ways in which we are able to intervene in these processes.”