Old mice grow young again in study. Can people do the same? (2023)

In Boston labs, old, blind mice have regained their eyesight, developed smarter, younger brains and built healthier muscle and kidney tissue. On the flip side, young mice have prematurely aged, with devastating results to nearly every tissue in their bodies.

The experiments show aging is a reversible process, capable of being driven “forwards and backwards at will,” said anti-aging expert David Sinclair, a professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School and codirector of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research.

Our bodies hold a backup copy of our youth that can be triggered to regenerate, said Sinclair, the senior author of a new paper showcasing the work of his lab and international scientists.

The combined experiments, published for the first time Thursday in the journal Cell, challenge the scientific belief aging is the result of genetic mutations that undermine our DNA, creating a junkyard of damaged cellular tissue that can lead to deterioration, disease and death.

“It’s not junk, it’s not damage that causes us to get old,” said Sinclair, who described the work last year at Life Itself, a health and wellness event presented in partnership with CNN.

“We believe it’s a loss of information — a loss in the cell’s ability to read its original DNA so it forgets how to function — in much the same way an old computer may develop corrupted software. I call it the information theory of aging.”

Jae-Hyun Yang, a genetics research fellow in the Sinclair Lab who coauthored the paper, said he expects the findings “will transform the way we view the process of aging and the way we approach the treatment of diseases associated with aging.”

Epigenetic changes control aging

While DNA can be viewed as the body’s hardware, the epigenome is the software. Epigenes are proteins and chemicals that sit like freckles on each gene, waiting to tell the gene “what to do, where to do it, and when to do it,” according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The epigenome literally turns genes on and off. That process can be triggered by pollution, environmental toxins and human behaviors such as smoking, eating an inflammatory diet or suffering a chronic lack of sleep. And just like a computer, the cellular process becomes corrupted as more DNA is broken or damaged, Sinclair said.

“The cell panics, and proteins that normally would control the genes get distracted by having to go and repair the DNA,” he explained. “Then they don’t all find their way back to where they started, so over time it’s like a Ping-Pong match, where the balls end up all over the floor.”

Old mice grow young again in study. Can people do the same? (1)

These mice are from the same litter. The one at right has been genetically altered to be old.

In other words, the cellular pieces lose their way home, much like a person with Alzheimer’s.

“The astonishing finding is that there’s a backup copy of the software in the body that you can reset,” Sinclair said. “We’re showing why that software gets corrupted and how we can reboot the system by tapping into a reset switch that restores the cell’s ability to read the genome correctly again, as if it was young.”

It doesn’t matter if the body is 50 or 75, healthy or wracked with disease, Sinclair said. Once that process has been triggered, “the body will then remember how to regenerate and will be young again, even if you’re already old and have an illness. Now, what that software is, we don’t know yet. At this point, we just know that we can flip the switch.”

Years of research

The hunt for the switch began when Sinclair was a graduate student, part of a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that discovered the existence of genes to control aging in yeast. That gene exists in all creatures, so there should be a way to do the same in people, he surmised.

To test the theory, he began trying to fast-forward aging in mice without causing mutations or cancer.

“We started making that mouse when I was 39 years old. I’m now 53, and we’ve been studying that mouse ever since,” he said. “If the theory of information aging was wrong, then we would get either a dead mouse, a normal mouse, an aging mouse or a mouse that had cancer. We got aging.”

With the help of other scientists, Sinclair and his Harvard team have been able to age tissues in the brain, eyes, muscle, skin and kidneys of mice.

To do this, Sinclair’s team developed ICE, short for inducible changes to the epigenome. Instead of altering the coding sections of the mice’s DNA that can trigger mutations, ICE alters the way DNA is folded. The temporary, fast-healing cuts made by ICE mimic the daily damage from chemicals, sunlight and the like that contribute to aging.

ICE mice at one year looked and acted twice their age.

Becoming young again

Now it was time to reverse the process. Sinclair Lab geneticist Yuancheng Lu created a mixture of three of four “Yamanaka factors,” human adult skin cells that have been reprogrammed to behave like embryonic or pluripotent stem cells, capable of developing into any cell in the body.

The cocktail was injected into damaged retinal ganglion cells at the back of the eyes of blind mice and switched on by feeding mice antibiotics.

“The antibiotic is just a tool. It could be any chemical really, just a way to be sure the three genes are switched on,” Sinclair told CNN previously. “Normally they are only on in very young, developing embryos and then turn off as we age.”

The mice regained most of their eyesight.

Next, the team tackled brain, muscle and kidney cells, and restored those to much younger levels, according to the study.

“One of our breakthroughs was to realize that if you use this particular set of three pluripotent stem cells, the mice don’t go back to age zero, which would cause cancer or worse,” Sinclair said. “Instead, the cells go back to between 50% and 75% of the original age, and they stop and don’t get any younger, which is lucky. How the cells know to do that, we don’t yet understand.”

Today, Sinclair’s team is trying to find a way to deliver the genetic switch evenly to each cell, thus rejuvenating the entire mouse at once.

“Delivery is a technical hurdle, but other groups seem to have done well,” Sinclair said, pointing to two unpublished studies that appear to have overcome the problem.

“One uses the same system we developed to treat very old mice, the equivalent of an 80-year-old human. And they still got the mice to live longer, which is remarkable. So they’ve kind of beaten us to the punch in that experiment,” he said.

“But that says to me the rejuvenation is not just affecting a few organs, it’s able to rejuvenate the whole mouse because they’re living longer,” he added. “The results are a gift and confirmation of what our paper is saying.”

What’s next? Billions of dollars are being poured into anti-aging, funding all sorts of methods to turn back the clock.

In his lab, Sinclair said his team has reset the cells in mice multiple times, showing that aging can be reversed more than once, and he is currently testing the genetic reset in primates. But decades could pass before any anti-aging clinical trials in humans begin, get analyzed and, if safe and successful, scaled to the mass needed for federal approval.

But just as damaging factors can disrupt the epigenome, healthy behaviors can repair it, Sinclair said.

“We know this is probably true because people who have lived a healthy lifestyle have less biological age than those who have done the opposite,” he said.

His top tips? Focus on plants for food, eat less often, get sufficient sleep, lose your breath for 10 minutes three times a week by exercising to maintain your muscle mass, don’t sweat the small stuff and have a good social group.

“The message is every day counts,” Sinclair said. “How you live your life even when you’re in your teens and 20s really matters, even decades later, because every day your clock is ticking.”

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FAQs

Can we reverse aging in mice? ›

Several groups had already found genetically engineered mice that begin expressing Yamanaka factors in adulthood show reversal of certain aging symptoms.

How did scientists reverse aging in mice? ›

A recent study published in the journal Cell found that by making DNA repairs on mice, scientists were able to drive age "forward and backward" thus manipulating the aging process.

Why is it useful to study aging in mice? ›

Mice are an ideal mammalian model for studying the genetics of aging: considerable resources are available, the generation time is short, and the environment can be easily controlled, an important consideration when performing mapping studies to identify genes that influence lifespan and age-related diseases.

How old are mice in experiments? ›

Mice should be at least 10 months old for inclusion in a middle age group and the upper age limit is about 14 - 15 months. This phase correlates to humans from 38 - 47 years old. Mice ranging from 18 - 24 months of age correlate with humans ranging from 56 - 69 years of age.

What foods reverse aging? ›

Here are 10 of the best anti-aging foods to nourish your body for a glow that comes from within.
  • Watercress. The health benefits of watercress don't disappoint! ...
  • Red bell pepper. Red bell peppers are loaded with antioxidants which reign supreme when it comes to anti-aging. ...
  • Papaya. ...
  • Blueberries. ...
  • Broccoli. ...
  • Spinach. ...
  • Nuts. ...
  • Avocado.
May 5, 2018

What drugs stop aging? ›

Rapamycin, also known as sirolimus, is an immunosuppressant drug that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999. Researchers have known about the drug's ability to increase life expectancy in mice and model organisms for nearly a decade.

Will humans be able to live forever? ›

While the population can expect to live longer lives on average, the human lifespan might have a cap. Scientists believe that the human lifespan could be anywhere from 120-150 years long, but not longer than that, due to accumulating hallmarks of aging and chronic disease.

How can I slow down my aging? ›

6 WAYS TO SLOW DOWN THE AGING PROCESS
  1. Eat a healthy diet. Always remember that what you put into your body will impact on the appearance of your skin. ...
  2. Maintain healthy DNA. Vitamin A is essential to life and to your skin. ...
  3. Keep your muscles and bones strong. ...
  4. A healthy heart. ...
  5. Exercise your brain. ...
  6. Look after your skin.

Can you reverse aging from stress? ›

Can You Reverse Aging From Stress? With short-term stress, there is always some reversibility. But the longer a person is under stress, the more permanent the physical signs of aging can become.

How does aging affect learning? ›

Age is often associated with a decline in cognitive abilities that are important for maintaining functional independence, such as learning new skills. Many forms of motor learning appear to be relatively well preserved with age, while learning tasks that involve associative binding tend to be negatively affected.

Why is it important to study the aging process? ›

Aging is associated with changes at multiple physiological levels. Research is needed to enable us to predict, identify, and where necessary address these changes.

Why is age important in research study? ›

Have you ever wondered why age questions are asked on surveys? Well, the reason why they are so useful is that a person's knowledge and experience about a topic or subject will often be determined by his or her age.

How are experimental mice killed? ›

Rats and mice used in aging studies often live out their natural lives, but most lab rodents are terminated at the end of a study. Some are killed via lethal injection or decapitated with strict guidelines to reduce pain and suffering, but most often, they are suffocated in cages with carbon dioxide.

How many mice is enough for an experiment? ›

Most of the time, the sample size is taken for granted, and most scientists use ten mice per group as a rule of thumb. But scientists should consider determining the sample size for each study based on a scientific rationale.

How old is a 1 year old mouse in human years? ›

Despite the similarities, mice have a diminutive lifespan compared to humans. In this study, we found that one human year is equivalent to nine mice days, although this is not the case when comparing the lifespan of mice versus humans taking the entire life at the same time without considering each phase separately.

What to drink to stop aging? ›

6 anti-ageing drinks that you should be sipping
  • Water. Let's start with the obvious one: water. ...
  • Grapefruit juice. Start off your mornings with a refreshing glass of pink grapefruit juice. ...
  • Green tea. ...
  • Beetroot juice. ...
  • Milk. ...
  • Cocoa.
Feb 12, 2020

What food helps wrinkles under eyes? ›

Apart from providing hydration, watermelon, is also rich in antioxidant, which helps in reducing the fine lines and wrinkles around the eye area. The presence of vitamin B1, B6 and C helps in keeping your under eye issues at bay.

What foods age your face? ›

5 popular foods that can contribute to early skin ageing
  • Sugar. Sugar is infamous for elevating the AGE process (advanced glycation). ...
  • Processed foods. ...
  • Fried foods. ...
  • Aerated beverages. ...
  • Dairy.
Sep 10, 2020

What age is best for anti-aging? ›

The AAD also recommends that people establish an effective anti-aging skin care routine in their 40s and 50s. This includes using a moisturizer that is labeled as anti-aging and sunscreen.

What pill destroy zombie cells? ›

The new treatment, named DQ, uses a drug called dasatnib, which is already licensed for killing cancer cells in people with leukemia, and the drug quercetin, a common plant pigment found in red wine, onions, green tea, apples, berries, Ginkgo biloba, and St John's wort.

How can I stop aging in the 70s? ›

Tips for aging gracefully
  1. Be kind to your skin. Your skin is your body's largest organ . ...
  2. Exercise. ...
  3. Mind your diet. ...
  4. Mental health matters. ...
  5. Stay physically active. ...
  6. Lower your stress. ...
  7. Quit smoking and decrease alcohol consumption. ...
  8. Get enough sleep.
Jun 18, 2019

In what year will humans be immortal? ›

Some researchers believe there's a limit on how long it's physically possible to live: perhaps 125 years. But what if we don't need our bodies at all? Some people, including famed futurist Ray Kurzweil, believe that by 2045, we might become immortal by uploading our brains into computers.

How long will it take for humans to be immortal? ›

Futurists indicate that we will accomplish the elusive feat of immortality by 2050 through various ongoing longevity interventions. The love of life and the fear of death — the two primary motivations that fuel humanity's quest for immortality.

Can a person live to be 200 years old? ›

Humans' life expectancy (average) is 70-85 years. However, the oldest verified person (Jeanne Clement, 1875-1997) lived up to 122 years. As a person ages, the telomeres (chromosome ends) tend to become shorter in every consecutive cycle of replication.

What makes a woman look younger? ›

Drinking enough water each day replenishes your skin's tissue and cells, allowing for younger and healthier looking skin. Another key to maintaining a youthful appearance is to simply get some rest! When you sleep, your body continuously releases hormones that promote cell turnover and renewal.

Do you age slower if you sleep more? ›

Sleeping well can lower blood pressure, relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, bringing nutrients—and a healthy color—to the skin. Sleep also slows the aging of the heart and blood vessels. Poor circulation and arterial aging are major contributors to the appearance of aging on the skin and hair.

What is the best treatment for 70 year old skin? ›

Wash with a gentle, fragrance-free, moisturizing bar soap, cleanser, or body wash. Doing so will help soothe rather than dry your skin. Moisturizing ingredients that can help reduce dryness include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and lanolin. Use warm (not hot) water.

Can you reverse aging at 50? ›

Is it possible to reverse aging? You cannot wholly reverse aging—it's a normal part of life. However, you may be able to slow it down and help prevent age-related diseases by adopting a healthy lifestyle. That includes habits like eating a healthy diet, wearing sunscreen every day, and exercising (Shanbhag, 2019).

Why am I aging so fast all of a sudden? ›

This is called extrinsic aging. As a result, premature aging can set in long before it was expected. In other words, your biological clock is more advanced than your chronological clock. Controllable factors such as stress, smoking and sun exposure can all play a role in expediting extrinsic aging.

Does anxiety age your face? ›

Stress causes changes to the proteins in your skin and reduces its elasticity. This loss of elasticity can contribute to wrinkle formation. Stress may also lead to repeated furrowing of your brow that may also contribute to the formation of wrinkles.

Does learning depend on age? ›

Learning Slows with Age

This is a trade-off between what researchers call fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Even if our minds slow down as we get older, we accumulate more experience. We know more as we age, even if we're slower at learning and processing new information.

At what age does the brain start to decline? ›

In the early years of life, the brain forms more than a million new neural connections every second. By the age of 6, the size of the brain increases to about 90% of its volume in adulthood. Then, in our 30s and 40s, the brain starts to shrink, with the shrinkage rate increasing even more by age 60.

Why is my brain so slow? ›

This can be caused by overworking, lack of sleep, stress, and spending too much time on the computer. On a cellular level, brain fog is believed to be caused by high levels inflammation and changes to hormones that determine your mood, energy and focus.

What is the most important factor for a successful aging? ›

The three principal components in the successful aging model developed by Rowe and Kahn, “absence of disease and disease-related disability,” “maintenance of high mental and physical function,” and “continued engagement with life,” were used to determine successful aging.

Why ageing and older persons matter for development? ›

Societal aging can affect economic growth, patterns of work and retirement, the way that families function, the ability of governments and communities to provide adequate resources for older adults, and the prevalence of chronic disease and disability.

Why does aging and older people matter for development? ›

1. Why Ageing and Older Persons Matter for Development? The aging of the population creates significant opportunities for sustainable development, which are associated with older generations' active participation in the economy, and society as a whole.

Can age be manipulated in research? ›

We cannot change a person's age, but we can study people of different ages and weights. “An active variable in one study could be an attribute variable in another study''. an infinite number of values between two points''. that has a finite number of values between any two points, representing discrete quantities.

Why age is an important variable? ›

Age is looked at as a dimension along which behavior changes are to be traced, forming part of the definition of the dependent variable in developmental studies.

Why is the age important? ›

Various studies have even shown that your subjective age also can predict various important health outcomes, including your risk of death.

Can mice feel pain? ›

Healthy mice living near injured rodents have higher pain sensitivity, too. To most people, the phrase "I feel your pain" is just an expression of sympathy. But it's also a real biological phenomenon, a new study in rodents suggests.

Do lab mice feel pain? ›

Mice and rats are mammals with nervous systems similar to our own. It's no secret that they feel pain, fear, loneliness, and joy just as we do. These highly social animals communicate with each other using high-frequency sounds that are inaudible to the human ear.

Is putting a mouse in the freezer humane? ›

Re: Frozen Rat: Actually, freezing is a very humane way to euthanize a rodent. They are designed to go into “hibernation” when the temperature starts to drop, which prevents both discomfort and panic.

How old should mice be for experiments? ›

Mice should be at least 10 months old for inclusion in a middle age group and the upper age limit is about 14 - 15 months. This phase correlates to humans from 38 - 47 years old. Mice ranging from 18 - 24 months of age correlate with humans ranging from 56 - 69 years of age.

Why are so many studies done on mice? ›

Mice fill a special and important role in medical research. Like humans, mice are mammals, and their bodies undergo many similar processes, such as ageing, and have similar immune responses to infection and disease. Their hormone (endocrine) systems are a lot like ours, too.

How many mice are normally in a house? ›

How many mice are normally in a house? The average mouse nest can be home to between a dozen and two dozen mice, depending on their age and the presence of other mice in the vicinity. Because mice nest in order to raise their pups, they seek out warm, dry areas that are well protected and close to a food source.

How old is a human in rat years? ›

365 ÷ 26.7 = 13.8 rat days = 1 human year.

How long do mice live without food? ›

House mice do not need as many calories because they don't have to work as hard as wild mice to survive. If mice have a constant water source, they can survive longer than two to four days without food, but not for long. Resourceful mice often store their food in their nests to survive difficult times without food.

How old is a 2 year old rat in human years? ›

Rat's age in monthsRat's age in yearsRat's age in human years
12 months1 year30 years
18 months1.5 years45 years
24 months2 years60 years
30 months2.5 years75 years
6 more rows

How do you slow down aging mice? ›

Rapamycin has been shown to extend lifespan of both male and female mice, when started at 9 or at 20 months of age. At the highest doses of rapamycin tested so far, male mice live 23% longer, and female mice life 26% longer than ordinary control mice.

Is it biologically possible to reverse aging? ›

It definitely sounds too good to be true, but new research shows that we can in fact reverse biological aging with diet and lifestyle. In 2021, researchers published the results of a pilot randomized clinical trial which demonstrated that the reversal of biological age is possible and was verified by objective results.

Does anything reverse aging? ›

Is it possible to reverse aging? You cannot wholly reverse aging—it's a normal part of life. However, you may be able to slow it down and help prevent age-related diseases by adopting a healthy lifestyle. That includes habits like eating a healthy diet, wearing sunscreen every day, and exercising (Shanbhag, 2019).

Can gene editing reverse aging? ›

“Editing” our Human Genome In Vivo

As we age, genes that maintain cellular health and vitality are down-regulated. At the same time, genes that promote disease and senescence become over-expressed. Once physicians are able to precisely program or “edit” DNA genes, then youthful health may be systemically restored.

What gets rid of mice the fastest? ›

Trapping

Trapping is the fastest way to get rid of mice. While live traps catch mice and allow you to release them, other traps kill the mice on contact, making quick work of mouse populations.

What stops mice from coming? ›

In order to prevent mice from entering the home, all cracks, openings and holes should be sealed with metal or cement. All doors and windows must close properly. Store foods in glass or metal containers with tight lids, and be certain to dispose of all food waste as soon as possible.

What stops mice from getting in? ›

Simple Rodent Control Tips

Screen vents and openings to chimneys. Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the home, including areas where utilities and pipes enter the home, using caulk, steel wool or a combination of both. Store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly.

What is the human age limit? ›

Although average human life expectancy is rising, the maximum lifespan is not increasing. Leading demographers claim that human lifespan is fixed at a natural limit around 122 years.

What causes human aging? ›

Such causes of aging include but are not limited to oxidative stress, glycation, telomere shortening, side reactions, mutations, aggregation of proteins, etc. In other words, it is the progressive damage to these structures and functions that we perceive and characterize as aging.

What is the best food for wrinkles? ›

Vitamin C and E

Rouleau explains that vitamin C is essential to collagen production, and helps improve the skin's ability to renew itself. Try vitamin C–packed foods like dark leafy greens, broccoli, peppers, strawberries, oranges, and papaya.

What makes you age slower? ›

Findings from a few studies suggest that eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables may help prevent damage that leads to premature skin aging. Findings from research studies also suggest that a diet containing lots of sugar or other refined carbohydrates can accelerate aging. Drink less alcohol.

What gene stops aging? ›

The Klotho gene owes its name to this goddess because of its scientific association with anti-aging properties. By the age of 40, the human body's Klotho levels naturally decrease. Klotho also regulates a protein called Wnt5a that's been shown to advance the spread of cancerous cells and treatment resistance.

Does aging change your DNA? ›

Our DNA changes as we age. Some of these changes are epigenetic—they modify DNA without altering the genetic sequence itself. Epigenetic changes affect how genes are turned on and off, or expressed, and thus help regulate how cells in different parts of the body use the same genetic code.

Can humans edit their own genes? ›

Human genome editing technologies can be used on somatic cells (non-heritable), germline cells (not for reproduction) and germline cells (for reproduction). Application of somatic human genome editing has already been undertaken, including in vivo editing, to address HIV and sickle-cell disease, for example.

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