Age reversal appears to be a subject for science fiction, like the alchemist’s vision of turning lead into gold. Yet, it can be induced on the cellular level. If fact, for certain of our cells aging-avoidance or age-reversal is absolutely necessary for the continuation of life.
Please see this short video segment.
How our germline cells can be passed on for hundreds of thousands or millions of years without aging is only now being unraveled. Those cells don’t age. Many questions can be raised about all this. Here is my take on a few of them.
· Is aging necessary for other than germline cells? My answer is YES, for otherwise cells could not differentiate into specialized tissue cells to create whole animals like we are. My skin cells, heart cells, muscle and all other cells are products of aging. Cells of each type embody an epigenetic “memory” of who they are, thank goodness. So, when a skin cell divides it divides into more skin cells, not bladder or liver cells. And in that respect all normal body cells are aged in comparison to pristine germline cells. Germline cells manage not to age by not differentiating except on conception. There is no clear point when development of an animal stops and aging starts. Aging starts way back just after conception and is lifelong.
· Can aging be reversed in our ordinary body cells? Breakthrough research developments over the last 10 years say the answer is YES. Practically any cell in your body can be reverted to become an induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC), virtually identical to your original embryonic stem cells. These iPSC cells can in turn be induced to differentiate into any normal body cell type. I have written about a dozen blog entries about these iPSCs so far. Some of the most-recent posts are Additional 2010 research progress with induced pluripotent stem cells (December 2010), A breakthrough in producing high-fidelity induced pluripotent stem cells (October 2010), Induced pluripotent stem cells – developments on the road to big-time utilization (July 2010), and A near-term application for iPSCs – making cell lines for drug testing (June 2010).
· Can aging be reversed in whole body organs? I think the answer will turn out again to be YES. This is the hope of the field of research called regenerative medicine, and there is much ongoing research in this area. Many of the approaches are based on using stem cells. See for example the blog entry Interesting recent stem cell research on the prevention of muscle aging by adult stem cell transplantation.
· Can aging be reversed in whole animals like we are? This remains a completely open question. It is my guess, only a guess for now, that within 15-20 years we will discover means for significant life extension. I also think that in the same time frame we will very-possibly discover means for reversing many of the phenotypic signs of aging in older people. The blog entry Mouse age reversal – very interesting but misrepresented research describes recent research in which prematurely-aged mice exhibiting various kinds of tissue degeneration associated with aging were made young and vital again through a telomerase-related treatment. The tissue degeneration associated with aging simply went away. The theme of age reversal is also in the background in many of my other writings, particularly those relating to epigenetics and in the concept of closing the loop in the stem cell supply chain.
This video blog entry, like the previous blog entry We are evolving to live longer – video blog, is being brought to you in close collaboration with the filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas. And I expect we will generate several more of these blog entries which are structured around short video segments on aspects of longevity science. Robert is the filmmaker who produced the recently-released film To Age or Not to Age. Robert captured hundreds of hours of interesting video in shooting the film over a 4-year period, including extensive interviews with a number of prominent aging-science researchers. It was possible to incorporate only a small fraction of that interesting material in the film itself. However, Robert is identifying short but remarkable segments of materials both in the film and not in the film, and I will be remarking on them just as in this blog entry. The videos and the remarks will appear on both this site and on the film site To Age or Not to Age.
Readers/viewers – please share your reactions. How do you react to the video? Can you point to other research that clearly demonstrates whole-animal age reversal? Any other highly-relevant research? And what do you think about this kind of blog entry? Would you like to see more of them?