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November 29th, 2010
03:30 PM ET

Aging partially reversed in mice. Are humans next?


Could mice in a Boston laboratory hold the key to people living longer? Scientists think it's possible. Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute say for the first time, they have partially reversed the aging process in mice. In these mice, brain disease was reversed, the sense of smell was restored; the mice even got their fertility back. The study appears in the journal Nature.

“What we have learned is that there’s a point of return for even aged tissues,” said Dr. Ronald DePinho, director of Dana-Farber’s Belfer Institute of Applied Cancer Science and professor of medicine and genetics at Harvard Medical School.

But before you head to Boston to see if you can get in on the action, there are a few things worth noting. First, these weren't your typical mice. For the experiment, scientists tweaked the telomerase gene in mice, which maintains the protective caps called telomeres that shield the end of chromosomes. As we age, that tip degenerates, opening the door for all kinds of hallmarks of aging, such as gray hair, organ degeneration, cognitive decline and infertility.

Scientists can’t tweak your DNA – it wouldn’t be medically safe or ethical. But DePinho hopes his work with mice will help medical science develop drugs that will help people age more healthfully.

“We’re not in the business of genetically engineering humans,” he said. “I think we would love to develop small molecule drugs that would be able to re-activate the telemorase enzyme prior to getting into all these degenerative states.”

Watch: Breakthrough in science of aging


soundoff (178 Responses)
  1. no

    interesting. I was just watching a doc on netflix about how stress ruins telomerase, making people age faster and develop all kinds of health problems.

    November 29, 2010 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. brent geppert

    Have you had your telemorase re-activated? Well now here's your chance with TeleReMo! The miracle pill from Pfizer & Friends Inc. For just three easy installments of $8999 and you too can have a fully active telemorase in just days! Think of how refreshed you'll look, how young you'll feel, how impressed your friends will be! Act now – supplies are limited.

    November 29, 2010 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Ivan

    Great.....vanity FOREVER!!!!

    November 29, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. PARROT

    JAN BREWER IS THE PERFECT CANDIDATE FOR THIS EXPERIMENT......!!!

    November 29, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Levi Strauss

    I renew my jeans every time I wash them.

    November 29, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. healthspan101

    It is amazing what makes news newsworthy these days. This group of scientists created a strain of mice that would grow old quickly by "removing" a gene, then added back the same gene and saw a reversal of those effects. It is not possible or desirable to knock out telomerase in humans. This particular chemical that some are claiming as a new "elixir" of youth has nothing to do with aging. It is simply a chemical that induces expression of an introduced gene. The gene they introduced was the same one they knocked out to begin with. They took away a required function and then gave it back. It is interesting that there was a reversal in aging characteristics, but they did not actually report that the mice lived longer than they would have if they hadn't removed the gene in the first place.

    November 29, 2010 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Amos

    Consider these reports as preparatory information for the public, because this information and age regeneration advances have been taking place for some time. Meaning years. Maybe not in the police state United States but the world is a much larger place.

    November 29, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. matt

    once the serum is complete, the rise of the zombies will occur and christians all over the world will rejoice because they will think the Messiah is come again. Then they will be eaten by the zombies.

    November 29, 2010 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. DW

    Exactly what we do not need.... Angry, old, obese, cigarette smoking, cell-phone talking people who will not die.

    November 29, 2010 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. YouIdiots

    For all those people saying that this planet is overpopulated, you are terribly terribly mistaken. It is not overpopulation keeping this world in a depressed state, it's corruption and greed of governments and officials. Think to yourself what countries are suffering the most from limited food-supplies, then come to realize who or what runs that country. Enough with these stupid statements regarding overpopulation, open your ridiculously small minds, peons.

    November 29, 2010 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. GoingBroke

    This is wonderful news. Now the Govt can raise the retirement age to, say 120, and save Social Security!

    November 29, 2010 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. D

    What's the name for someone who has a fear of aging?

    November 29, 2010 at 21:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. KC

    Oh goodie–we can have our menstrual periods forever.....

    Rent or buy Wasp Woman-it's a great old B&W dealing with this issue! You will laugh your socks off!

    November 29, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. davec

    Rubbish.

    November 29, 2010 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Healthy minds

    I feel sorry for anyone who finds this breakthrough useless or self indulgent. What might our world be like if we were healthy and could continue to make a difference to our communities way into our senior years instead of being a burden on our families and society by being sick and incapacitated?!

    November 29, 2010 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. efsharr

    Who would want to be younger? All that torment! Older is definitely better.

    November 29, 2010 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. D

    I don't fear aging in a sense I will get wrinkles and get plump. It's more of a fear of spending so much time here and not accomplishing anything while I was alive-that I'm still going to be in the same place I am now-and that's stuck. I also have enough health problems that my grandfather is in better shape than I am...and its just going to get worse with age...I'm going to end up putting myself out of my misery by the time I'm 50!

    November 29, 2010 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. saffi

    I don't think it is a good news for the world while human try to reverse the nature . I think the nature is the best for all creatives. We ought to respect the nature. To think about the world being full of human older than 200 years!!

    November 29, 2010 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. CC

    I think it should be a two-edged sword. If they increase your lifespan and your healthy from that point on your fertilty rate should plummet. If we are living longer and healthier than we should have less children so the world population doesn't explode. One pill for long life one pill for birth control – men and women.

    November 29, 2010 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pete

      I'm glad at least one other person thought of that. Nobody wants a world like this.

      November 30, 2010 at 08:58 | Report abuse |
    • Stuart South

      This is such a limited Earth bound way of thinking, typical of a being who has lived their entire life on a planet that they can’t see past. There is no reason for anyone to die and no reason for anyone to stop having children. Our universe is infinite. We can colonize the moon and Mars and we can build trillions upon trillions of O'Neill type space stations. Our solar system could easily support a population of a billion multiplied by itself a million times, and we still would have plenty of room. There is also 93 solar system within 20 light years of our solar system. Each one of these could support unimaginable amounts of people, and there are more than a 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy.

      What we might have to do is make a law that if you want to have your aging cured then you have to sign a contract that you will leave Earth to live on anther world or in an O’Neill type space station. We could also do the same thing for having children. If you stay on Earth you can only have one child, but if you go live off world you can have all the children you want. You could have 100 kids. It wouldn’t matter because once you leave Earth resources and space approach infinity.

      June 8, 2011 at 16:05 | Report abuse |
  20. BrodyH

    Mice are generally good models of human biology, but in the case of telomeres this is not the case. The news story neglects to mention that the mice in question are actually 3rd or 4th generation telomerase knockouts– that's because mice that don't have functional telomerase show no phenotype for several generations; that's how long it takes for their telomeres to shorten enough to become a problem. That's because mice have telomeres on average ten to twenty times longer than human telomeres, and there is considerable evidence that the biology involved in and around the telomere is substantially different. For instance, one of the largest differences in telomere biology between mice and humans is that in mice, telomerase is normally active in all tissues, while in humans telomerase activity is restricted to embryonic cells and stem cells in the adult.

    I should point out that mice that have normal-length telomeres (meaning the telomeres are long enough for two or three entire mouse lifetimes) still age normally, showing many of the same age-related degeneration seen in humans. What this study is actually showing is that it is possible to engage a premature aging phenotype in mice by imposing a new age-related decline that is not normally present, and that this phenotype is reversible upon removal of the original trigger.

    Telomerase is normally inactive in non-stem cells, most likely as a cancer-prevention mechanism, and reactivation of the enzyme is one of the critical steps in oncogenesis; telomerase is active in the overwhelming majority of human cancers. The authors of the study try and dismiss this concern by pointing out that their transgenic mice with active telomerase don't show higher cancer rates, but their are two very large problems with using that as evidence that reactivation of telomerase will not cause cancer. The first problem is that telomerase is active in mice normally, and their telomeres are long enough that telomere length is not limiting for the formation of a mouse tumor, and so observing that mice with activated telomerase don't have higher cancer rates than other mice is irrelevant. The second problem is that mice don't live anywhere near as long as people do– we can only say for sure that something that doesn't cause cancer in mice will not cause cancer for at least 2 or 3 years.

    Telomere shortening was originally hypothesized to be the cause of aging when their function was first discovered, and in some cases this may be partially true. However, it is becoming apparent that many other factors play a role, and a simple reactivation of telomerase will definitely not reverse aging in humans or normal mice. In short, its straightforward, uncomplicated, and somewhat obvious; the only reason I can see for it being in Nature is that they went to the trouble of making an additional transgenic mouse. This certainly won't lead to any major breakthroughs in treatment of aged humans (except, perhaps, prematurely aged individuals due to a defect in telomerase, such as in dyskeratosis congenita patients), and I think its such a gross oversimplification of the aging process that it borders on irresponsibility.

    November 29, 2010 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jimmy

      That was indeed a mouthful. So what then is the cause of aging? The cells in ability to repair itself after damage? I know people hype over anti-oxidants under the impression that it prevents free radicals from damaging cells. For when a cell is damaged beyond repair, it commits apoptosis thus creating a need for another cell to reproduce and take place of itself and that shortens the telomere because each time a cell divides and makes a copy of itself, the telomere is "snipped" a bit.

      November 29, 2010 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
    • Name: (required)

      u wrote a novel!!!

      November 30, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  21. oh boy

    That's a mouthful!

    November 29, 2010 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Jimmy

    Would it not be possible that humans age and die as a result of natural selection. Some people say its to prevent over populations while others suggests its a method to delete and update the gene pool according to its environmental changes.

    November 29, 2010 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Tony

    Yo, I got that unethical science dawg.

    November 30, 2010 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tommy

      Grade A stuff. I'm unquetinsoably in your debt.

      October 9, 2011 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
    • iuhxuera

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      October 10, 2011 at 04:40 | Report abuse |
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      October 12, 2011 at 06:44 | Report abuse |
  24. HPN

    That's just what we need, longer living mice.

    November 30, 2010 at 07:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Bob

    The search for physical imotality.. The Epic of Gilgamesh back in the Sumerian days.. Ponce De-Leon search for the fountain of Youth.. If this happens and we find a Eternal Youth pill, the choas and over-population effecting billions of people on an already over crowded planet.. To me, I'd rather spend my Twilight years searching for my TRUE self, A Spiritual quest, not the physical which returns to dust in the earth.. Nothiing man-made lasts, it is all a temporary.. Learn what you came here to learn , than it is time to go Home..

    November 30, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. gene

    I found that I had a fountain of youth when around 15, so, what else is new?

    November 30, 2010 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. katie

    Just what we need, less people dying, a distorted birth to death ratio and 80 year old women having babies.. g-r-e-a-t!!!

    November 30, 2010 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Pope Benedict

    If aging and disease were eliminated, people would die only from accidents and average lifespan would be 600 years. People should be required to die when they are 35. This would solve the population problem, Alzheimer's, prostate cancer, and many other age related deseases. And we wouldn't have to get the Catholic church to endorse family planning.

    November 30, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Name: (required)

      ru rlly the pope??

      November 30, 2010 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
  29. Floyd Vahalik

    If this turns into an immortality fix, expect the government to quickly take it over. Can you imagine the mass stampede of people and what they would do to live forever at age 25? Barring disease and accident, a person who was immortal would quickly lose a need for religion.

    November 30, 2010 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Brian

    In the article they talk about tweaking human genes and that it "would not be ethical". Where is this gigantic book of ethics, and who the hell decides what is and is not ethical? If you have someone that will allow you to experiment on them, then hell with 'ethics'. Science needs to move forward, even at the cost of 'ethics'.

    December 9, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. OlinVN

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    June 4, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Stuart South

    This is so wonderful. Aging is one of the most horrible things we face. A cure for aging is a lot nearer than most people realize. I think everyone should read the Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil.

    We need to start building a bridge to space to allow for a safe growth of humanity. Once we get into space and on to other worlds like the moon and Mars resources and space to expand into approach infinity. We can all live as long as we want and have as many children as we want.

    Laws might have to be made that if you get your aging cured you will have to leave Earth.

    Humanity valiantly and courageously faced aging through out history and we can be proud of that. For the most part people eventually come to terms with it as something that is simple too powerful for humanity to overcome. This will eventually change though and this will be the hardest thing for us to face. It is deeply ingrained in our minds that we have to die. Learning that death and aging isn’t unavoidable is more shocking than when humanity discovered that the Earth is round and not flat. We will defeat aging and we will do it sooner than most people realize.

    June 8, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Transgenic Mice

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    June 12, 2011 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. anthony blaine welter

    did not change D.N.A. only changed energy! got it Now come up with another academitic blonder to try to say who will live and who will die?

    November 15, 2012 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. anthony blaine welter

    For the children born with hypo-C

    November 15, 2012 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. anthony blaine welter

    so now think of something wrong with children that want to live and now have a choice

    November 15, 2012 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. anthony blaine welter

    in the name of gabbie brown dauther of sally brown liver transplant survivor contracted from blood transfusion during transplant.butler Pa.

    November 15, 2012 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. anthony blaine welter

    by the way gabs mother got the infection in a ethicable sugery

    November 25, 2012 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Anthony Blaine Welter

    wellness the rite of life, liberty,and the prosuit of happiness BY any Spelling is as it is our god given rites all are created equal and must always remain so thru-out there lives that is through everlasting life the telemoras energy systems emblem around the D.N.A. that is of frequences except one frequence! All in all by whateverspelling as in such the spelling yet mental configuation is spelled reater then any is cut them off at the knees! ethically as ethical as cuting someone open taking onthers body parts that are dead anmd putting them in they that was less-such part sew on so!

    March 8, 2013 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Anthony Blaine Welter

    reply is insensing nad station saying how wrong it is or isn't these break throughs are so tell me that your mother brothers heart from your dad that is/was the finder of you grandfathers donatoin to your father for your mothers brother! anyone useing someones own body or someone-elses dead body part ethics

    March 8, 2013 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Anthony Blaine Welter

    ethics one some-one elses body parts

    March 8, 2013 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Anthony Blaine Welter

    your-own body claim is ethicaul

    March 8, 2013 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Anthony Blaine Welter

    no is not a option noe is know nou noa is no option obtained voted truth

    March 8, 2013 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Paul

    or you can also check how the experiment was progressing on wwytimeline.com

    December 27, 2013 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Paul

    http://wwytimeline.com/

    December 27, 2013 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. melissawillow

    I found a company selling a supplement containing NAD (www.zaoreset.com) and am thinking of trying it. Has anyone else tried this product yet?

    January 8, 2014 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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