Being able to reverse the visible signs of aging is a dream of many women. Among the ways to prevent premature aging are sun protection, eating healthy, storing up calcium at an early age, quitting smoking, and managing stress. Stress may come from environmental toxins, sleep deprivation, and so on.
The really alarming part of advancing in years is that it heightens the risk of developing age-related diseases. Aging had seemed impossible to reverse, but now science has come up with a possible way to do just that.
Recent studies looked closely at replicating stem cell-like conditions through intermittent expressions of genes to reverse signs of aging. It turns out certain age-associated characteristics that were once thought to be permanent are, in fact, reversible.
The Yamanaka Factors
Back in 2006, Shinya Yamanaka discovered four genes that, when forced to express themselves, turned cells back to their pre-differentiated state. For many, this was an indication that someday, aging may be reversed.
The breakthrough produced cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). It won for researcher Dr. Shinya Yamanaka the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012.
What scientists from Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory did was to prompt cellular rejuvenation through a cellular reprogramming that can activate the expressions of the four genes (Yamanaka factors). The process converts cells into iPSCs.
There were problems that had to be hurdled, though. Pluripotent meant they could become anything. By turning the genes on, researchers found that cells ended up losing their identity. Since the cells can grow into anything, there was the possibility of developing cancer.
The Salk team figured they could avoid cancer and improve aging characteristics by inducing the Yamanaka factors for a short period of time. The research and findings from the experiment were published in the journal
The Reverse Aging Mice Experiments
The Salk scientists used skin cells from mice with the rare genetic disease called progeria. After inducing the Yamanaka factors for a short period of time, the cells manifested reversal of multiple aging hallmarks while
retaining their skin-cell identity.
The team also trained their sights on normal, aged mice. Cellular reprogramming led to faster healing of injured pancreas and muscle in aged mice.
One of the professors in the Gene Expression Laboratories at Salk Institute JC Izpisua Belmonte noted that it will be far more complex to rejuvenate a person. Nonetheless, the findings signify that epigenetic changes are at the heart of the aging process. They bared the possibility that those changes may be flexible and possibly even reversible.