Scientists have been using stem cells to reverse aging in mice, and they say the research may one day translate to human beings.
MSNBC.com reports a study published on Tuesday showed that the injection of stem cells reversed aging in mice.
In the study, mice were engineered to imitate a disease in humans called progeria which speeds up the aging process. Mice with progeria typically die at around 21 days old, whereas normal mice die at two years old. The mice were injected in the stomach with young muscle stem cells from healthy mice.
Researchers noticed an immediate difference in the behavior of the mice.
Although the stem-cell injected mice with progeria didn’t live as long as the average mouse, they lived three times as long as they would have without the stem cells.
The co-author of the study, Johnny Huard, is the professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and he believes the mice would have lived longer had he injected the treatment again.
Scientists believe the aging process occurs when stem cells age and lose the ability to repair themselves. The cells then divide slowly.
“It was mind boggling,” said Huard to MSNBC.com. “When I saw them I thought, ‘Oh my God, I must have made a mistake and put the normal mice in the wrong cage.’ But they were indeed the mice we’d injected with the stem cells.”
“There’s a lot of money being spent in the world trying to delay aging,” said the professor. “It would be fantastic if we can apply this to human beings. It’s a very simple approach.”
In 2010, The Guardian reported that researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School regenerated aged mice by reactivating the enzyme telomerase, which serves as a ‘protective cap’ on chromosomes.
Each time a cell divides, telomerase becomes shorter, until they stop working entirely and the cell dies or enters a state of suspension. This course of action is behind much of what occurs during the aging process.