The ageing genes have been under intense study in recent times. Humans want to take the next big step in medical history with an universally craved age extending medicine. Now researchers in Japan have found out that in certain conditions, the ageing process can be slowed down and even reversed. How did they come to this conclusion?
They studied the microscopic behaviour of the parts of cell related to the deterioration process. They also found out that the interaction between two genes is related to how we age. The inevitable downside of ageing starts with the mutations in the mitochondrial DNA piling up with the passage of time. Mitochondria (shown in the featured image) handle the production of energy in the cells. Once the mutations damage the mitochondria, the effects of ageing start to appear like hair loss, Osteoporosis and reduced abilities of life in general.
But this theory has been challenged by the research in question from Tsukuba University Japan that claims that something else might be going on inside. Instead of mitochondria being damaged, the real reason behind the ageing process would be the turning genes on and off. The team started overriding those random flips and successfully reverted to the original youthful position. Thus, they were able to reverse the ageing process altogether.
The researchers came with this alternative explanation after observing the mitochondria of children less than twelve, and elderly people between 80-97 years old. They came to know that the mitochondria of older people didn’t have more damage compared to the younger ones’. Therefore, the earlier theory regarding mitochondrial degradation was disproved.
Now, the team focused on finding the real cause of ageing and they discovered that the congenital regulation might be the reason. Changes to DNA’s physical structure without affecting the DNA sequence forces the genes to be turned on and off. The turning on and off of the genes can be manipulated by genetically reprogramming cells to an embryonic stem cell-like state.
So, it seems that ageing is a natural process because these “switches” are flipped with the course of time. If we push them back to an earlier position, they will go back. To test this theory, the Japanese researchers found two genes associated with mitochondrion and simulated them into switching. These switching practices led mitochondria to restore respiration or deteriorate at will.
Other teams are also experimenting on extending life spans. There is a new line of drugs called senolytics. They effectively help slow down the ageing too. The experiment meant allowing the cell to go back to its youth structure. If all cells are affected, the human body could effectively become younger at will. But, for now it is only possible on fibre walls of mitochondrion only. Nevertheless, this is a breakthrough discovery and it will help dealing with old age diseases in the future at least!