A team of Israeli scientists have successfully managed to biologically reverse the ageing process in humans for the first time ever, using hyperbaric oxygen chambers to stop changes to DNA associated with ageing.
The oxygen-based therapy is believed to affect two key areas that are responsible for us becoming more frail as we grow older: telomeres – protective caps at the ends of chromosomes which shorten over time causing DNA to become damaged – and ‘senescent’ cells, which build up in the body and prevent regeneration.
Researchers have focused on these two areas in several anti-ageing trials, with a number of treatments targeting telomeres and senescent cells currently in development.
Now, scientists from Tel Aviv University look to have found the solution. By giving pure oxygen to older patients in a highly-pressurised chamber, they’ve found that they were able to increase the length of telomeres, and reduce the number of senescent cells by 37%, allowing new, healthy cells to regrow in their place.
During the trial, a group of adults aged 64 and older were placed individually in a hyperbaric chamber, where they breathed 100% oxygen through a mask. The patients spent 90 minutes in the chamber for five days a week over the course of three months.
As a result of the treatment, the telomeres were able to grow back to the length they were 25 years ago, essentially demonstrating that it is possible to wind the clock back on parts of the human body. Previous studies have also found that removing senescent cells in animals could extend their life by up to a third.
Professor Shai Efrati, who was involved in the study, told The Telegraph:
Since telomere shortening is considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of the biology of ageing, many pharmacological and environmental interventions are being extensively explored in the hopes of enabling telomere elongation.
The significant improvement of telomere length shown during and after these unique protocols provides the scientific community with a new foundation of understanding that ageing can indeed be targeted and reversed at the basic cellular-biological level.
It’s been demonstrated that several health and lifestyle factors, such as smoking, inactivity, vitamin deficiency and obesity, can speed up the shortening of telomeres. And with many scientists believing that ageing is responsible for conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and arthritis, it’s possible that this therapy could help prevent some of the illnesses more commonly associated with getting older.
Dr Amir Hadanny, chief medical research officer of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research, said of the achievement:
With this pioneering study, we have opened a door for further research on the prolonged cellular impact of the therapy to reverse the ageing process.
Dr Hadanny added, ‘After dedicating our research to exploring its impact on the areas of brain functionality and age-related cognitive decline, we have now uncovered, for the first time in humans, biological effects at the cellular level in healthy ageing adults.’
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The Daily Telegraph
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