In molecular biologist David Sinclair’s lab at Harvard Medical School, old mice are growing young again.
Using proteins that can turn an adult cell into a stem cell, Sinclair and his team have reset aging cells in mice to earlier versions of themselves. In his team’s first breakthrough, published in late 2020, old mice with poor eyesight and damaged retinas could suddenly see again, with vision that at times rivaled their offspring’s.
David Sinclair has reversed aging in mice and believes the same can be done for people.
“It’s a permanent reset, as far as we can tell, and we think it may be a universal process that could be applied across the body to reset our age,” said Sinclair, who has spent the last 20 years studying ways to reverse the ravages of time.
“If we reverse aging, these diseases should not happen. We have the technology today to be able to go into your hundreds without worrying about getting cancer in your 70s, heart disease in your 80s and Alzheimer’s in your 90s.” Sinclair told an audience at Life Itself, a health and wellness event presented in partnership with CNN.
“This is the world that is coming. It’s literally a question of when and for most of us, it’s going to happen in our lifetimes,” Sinclair told the audience.
Can we cure aging?
04:31 - Source: CNN
“His research shows you can change aging to make lives younger for longer. Now he wants to change the world and make aging a disease,” said Whitney Casey, an investor who is partnering with Sinclair to create a do-it-yourself biological age test.
While modern medicine addresses sickness, it doesn’t address the underlying cause, “which for most diseases, is aging itself,” Sinclair said. “We know that when we reverse the age of an organ like the brain in a mouse, the diseases of aging then go away. Memory comes back; there is no more dementia.
“I believe that in the future, delaying and reversing aging will be the best way to treat the diseases that plague most of us.”
A reset button
In Sinclair’s lab, two mice sit side by side. One is the picture of youth, the other gray and feeble. Yet they are brother and sister, born from the same litter – only one has been genetically altered to age faster.
If that could be done, Sinclair asked his team, could the reverse be accomplished as well? Japanese biomedical researcher Dr. Shinya Yamanaka had already reprogrammed human adult skin cells to behave like embryonic or pluripotent stem cells, capable of developing into any cell in the body. The 2007 discovery won the scientist a Nobel Prize, and his “induced pluripotent stem cells,” soon became known as “Yamanaka factors.”
However, adult cells fully switched back to stem cells via Yamanaka factors lose their identity. They forget they are blood, heart and skin cells, making them perfect for rebirth as “cell du jour,” but lousy at rejuvenation. You don’t want Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” to become a baby all at once; you want him to age backward while still remembering who he is.
Labs around the world jumped on the problem. A study published in 2016 by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, showed signs of aging could be expunged in genetically aged mice, exposed for a short time to four main Yamanaka factors, without erasing the cells’ identity.
But there was a downside in all this research: In certain situations, the altered mice developed cancerous tumors.
Looking for a safer alternative, Sinclair lab geneticist Yuancheng Lu chose three of the four factors and genetically added them to a harmless virus. The virus was designed to deliver the rejuvenating Yamanaka factors to damaged retinal ganglion cells at the back of an aged mouse’s eye. After injecting the virus into the eye, the pluripotent genes were then switched on by feeding the mouse an antibiotic.
“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 said. “Normally they are only on in very young developing embryos and then turn off as we age.”
Amazingly, damaged neurons in the eyes of mice injected with the three cells rejuvenated, even growing new axons, or projections from the eye into the brain. Since that original study, Sinclair said his lab has reversed aging in the muscles and brains of mice and is now working on rejuvenating a mouse’s entire body.
“Somehow the cells know the body can reset itself, and they still know which genes should be on when they were young,” Sinclair said. “We think we’re tapping into an ancient regeneration system that some animals use – when you cut the limb off a salamander, it regrows the limb. The tail of a fish will grow back; a finger of a mouse will grow back.”
That discovery indicates there is a “backup copy” of youthfulness information stored in the body, he added.
“I call it the information theory of aging,” he said. “It’s a loss of information that drives aging cells to forget how to function, to forget what type of cell they are. And now we can tap into a reset switch that restores the cell’s ability to read the genome correctly again, as if it was young.”
While the changes have lasted for months in mice, renewed cells don’t freeze in time and never age (like, say, vampires or superheroes), Sinclair said. “It’s as permanent as aging is. It’s a reset, and then we see the mice age out again, so then we just repeat the process.
“We believe we have found the master control switch, a way to rewind the clock,” he added. “The body will then wake up, remember how to behave, remember how to regenerate and will be young again, even if you’re already old and have an illness.”
Science already knows how to slow human aging
Studies on whether the genetic intervention that revitalized mice will do the same for people are in early stages, Sinclair said. It will be years before human trials are finished, analyzed and, if safe and successful, scaled to the mass needed for a federal stamp of approval.
While we wait for science to determine if we too can reset our genes, there are many other ways to slow the aging process and reset our biological clocks, Sinclair said.
“The top tips are simply: 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,” Sinclair said.
All these behaviors affect our epigenome, 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.
What controls the epigenome? Human behavior and one’s environment play a key role. Let’s say you were born with a genetic predisposition for heart disease and diabetes. But because you exercised, ate a plant-focused diet, slept well and managed your stress during most of your life, it’s possible those genes would never be activated. That, experts say, is how we can take some of our genetic fate into our own hands.
The positive impact on our health from eating a plant-based diet, having close, loving relationships and getting adequate exercise and sleep are well documented. Calorie restriction, however, is a more controversial way of adding years to life, experts say.
Cutting back on food – without inducing malnutrition – has been a scientifically known way to lengthen life for nearly a century. Studies on worms, crabs, snails, fruit flies and rodents have found restricting calories “delay the onset of age-related disorders” such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, according to the National Institute on Aging. Some studies have also found extensions in life span: In a 1986 study, mice fed only a third of a typical day’s calories lived to 53 months – a mouse kept as a pet may live to about 24 months.
Studies in people, however, have been less enlightening, partly because many have focused on weight loss instead of longevity. For Sinclair, however, cutting back on meals was a significant factor in resetting his personal clock: Recent tests show he has a biological age of 42 in a body born 53 years ago.
“I’ve been doing a biological test for 10 years now, and I’ve been getting steadily younger for the last decade,” Sinclair said. “The biggest change in my biological clock occurred when I ate less often – I only eat one meal a day now. That made the biggest difference to my biochemistry.”
Additional ways to turn back the clock
Sinclair incorporates other tools into his life, based on research from his lab and others. In his book “Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To,” he writes that little of what he does has undergone the sort of “rigorous long-term clinical testing” needed to have a “complete understanding of the wide range of potential outcomes.” In fact, he added, “I have no idea if this is even the right thing for me to be doing.”
With that caveat, Sinclair is willing to share his tips: He keeps his starches and sugars to a minimum and gave up desserts at age 40 (although he does admit to stealing a taste on occasion). He eats a good amount of plants, avoids eating other mammals and keeps his body weight at the low end of optimal.
He exercises by taking a lot of steps each day, walks upstairs instead of taking an elevator and visits the gym with his son to lift weights and jog before taking a sauna and a dip in an ice-cold pool. “I’ve got my 20-year-old body back,” he said with a smile.
Speaking of cold, science has long thought lower temperatures increased longevity in many species, but whether it is true or not may come down to one’s genome, according to a 2018 study. Regardless, it appears cold can increase brown fat in humans, which is the type of fat bears use to stay warm during hibernation. Brown fat has been shown to improve metabolism and combat obesity.
Sinclair takes vitamins D and K2 and baby aspirin daily, along with supplements that have shown promise in extending longevity in yeast, mice and human cells in test tubes.
One supplement he takes after discovering its benefits is 1 gram of resveratrol, the antioxidant-like substance found in the skin of grapes, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries and peanuts.
He also takes 1 gram of metformin, a staple in the arsenal of drugs used to lower blood sugars in people with diabetes. He added it after studies showed it might reduce inflammation, oxidative damage and cellular senescence, in which cells are damaged but refuse to die, remaining in the body as a type of malfunctioning “zombie cell.”
However, some scientists quibble about the use of metformin, pointing to rare cases of lactic acid buildup and a lack of knowledge on how it functions in the body.
Sinclair also takes 1 gram of NMN, or nicotinamide mononucleotide, which in the body turns into NAD+, or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. A coenzyme that exists in all living cells, NAD+ plays a central role in the body’s biological processes, such as regulating cellular energy, increasing insulin sensitivity and reversing mitochondrial dysfunction.
When the body ages, NAD+ levels significantly decrease, dropping by middle age to about half the levels of youth, contributing to age-related metabolic diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. Numerous studies have shown restoring NAD+ levels safely improves overall health and increases life span in yeast, mice and dogs. Clinical trials testing the molecule in humans have been underway for three years, Sinclair said.
“These supplements, and the lifestyle that I am doing, is designed to turn on our defenses against aging,” he said. “Now, if you do that, you don’t necessarily turn back the clock. These are just things that slow down epigenetic damage and these other horrible hallmarks of aging.
“But the real advance, in my view, was the ability to just tell the body, ‘Forget all that. Just be young again,’ by just flipping a switch. Now I’m not saying that we’re going to all be 20 years old again,” Sinclair said.
“But I’m optimistic that we can duplicate this very fundamental process that exists in everything from a bat to a sheep to a whale to a human. We’ve done it in a mouse. There’s no reason I can think of why it shouldn’t work in a person, too.”
The Benjamin Button Effect
Scientists at Harvard Medical School have been able to reverse the aging process in mice using proteins that can transform an adult cell into a stem cell.
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.Can scientists reverse DNA aging in mice? ›
Analyses of the mice's muscles, kidneys, and retinas suggest the cocktail reversed some of the epigenetic changes induced by the DNA breaks. The findings point to a way to drive an animal's age “forwards and backwards at will,” Sinclair says, and support the idea of epigenome-targeting treatments for aging in humans.What is reverse aging process? ›
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).Is Benjamin Button reverse aging? ›
Fourteen years ago, the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was released. In the movie, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) begins life as an elderly man in a New Orleans nursing home and ages in reverse.What lesson does Benjamin Button teach us about the aging process explain? ›
The story explores the way that age dictates identity; how old we are has quite a bit to do with who we are. And not just where physical appearance is concerned. By being born old, Benjamin is born not just with the body and face of an old man, but with the mind and emotions of an old man.Is aging in mice similar to humans? ›
The maturational rate of mice does not linearly correlate with humans—it occurs 150 times faster during the first month of life and 45 times faster over the next five months, during which mice pass through their mature adult stage.Who is the scientist to reverse aging? ›
These genes came from the suite of so-called Yamanaka stem cells factors—a set of four genes that Nobel scientist Shinya Yamanaka in 2006 discovered can turn back the clock on adult cells to their embryonic, stem cell state so they can start their development, or differentiation process, all over again.How did scientists make mice more intelligent? ›
This team from Britain and Canada found that mutating a single gene to block the phosphodiesterase-4B (PDE4B) enzyme, which is found in many organs including the brain, made mice cleverer and at the same time less fearful. The PDE4B enzyme is involved in cellular regulation.Is mouse DNA the same as human DNA? ›
Mice and humans share approximately 70 percent of the same protein-coding gene sequences, though these genes constitute just 1.5 percent of their respective genomes.
Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence.Can you reverse damage to DNA? ›
Double-strand breaks, the most serious injuries that happen to DNA, can be repaired by one of two pathways: a fast but error-prone process known as NHEJ (non-homologous end joining) and a slower, error-free pathway known as HR (homologous recombination).What helps reverse skin aging? ›
- Protect your skin from the sun every day. ...
- Apply self-tanner rather than get a tan. ...
- If you smoke, stop. ...
- Avoid repetitive facial expressions. ...
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. ...
- Drink less alcohol. ...
- Exercise most days of the week. ...
- Cleanse your skin gently.
- Prioritize sleep.
- Maintain healthy sex hormone levels.
- Incorporate strength training to maintain muscle mass.
- Eat healthfully for metabolic and heart health.
- Play brain games.
- Wear sunscreen to protect against signs of premature skin aging.
Some skin changes, such as fine wrinkles from sun damage, may be reversed by treatment with retinoic acid. This treatment can also improve your skin's texture, reduce discoloration and increase collagen. Other effects of aging aren't reversible. But they may be treatable.What is the Benjamin Button effect scientists can reverse? ›
The goal is to do the same for humans. In molecular biologist David Sinclair's lab at Harvard Medical School, old mice are growing young again.Is the Benjamin Button story true? ›
Rupesh Kumar, 21, lives in India and weighs under 45 pounds, Express reports. He has a rare condition called Hutchinson-Gilford progeria that causes him to age quickly. It affects only one in 8 million people. The condition is said to have inspired "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the F.Is Benjamin Button true to life? ›
Sam Berns, thought to be the real-life Benjamin Button, had been suffering with the uncommon genetic disorder progeria which affects upto one in eight million people. The condition causes rapid premature ageing. Symptoms include hair loss, slow growth, joint deterioration and early signs of heart problems.What is Benjamin purpose on Animal Farm? ›
Within the novella's allegory of Soviet history, Benjamin represents the intellectuals who failed to oppose Stalin. More broadly, Benjamin represents all intellectuals who choose to ignore politics. Benjamin pays a high price for his refusal to engage with the Farm's politics.What lessons can we learn from Benjamin Franklin? ›
- Waste Not. "Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of." ...
- Learn. "Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn." ...
- Make Mistakes. "Do not fear mistakes. ...
- Energy and Persistence. ...
- Prepare. ...
- Be Diligent. ...
- Make an Impression.
Benjamin from George Orwell's Animal Farm is the bystander that realizes what the pigs on the farm are doing but doesn't want to get in the middle of it because he's cynical. He thinks that it doesn't matter who's in charge, things will always end badly.Why do researchers use mice instead of humans? ›
Mice and rats have long served as the preferred species for biomedical research animal models due to their anatomical, physiological, and genetic similarity to humans. Advantages of rodents include their small size, ease of maintenance, short life cycle, and abundant genetic resources.Are human and mice brains the same? ›
The mouse brain is significantly smaller than the human brain. In volume it is less than one-thousandth the size of the human brain. Even apart from their smaller size, mouse brains are organized differently from human brains.What do mice and humans have in common? ›
Humans and mice don't look alike, but both species are mammals and are biologically very similar. Almost all of the genes in mice share functions with the genes in humans. That means we develop in the same way from egg and sperm, and have the same kinds of organs (heart, brain, lungs, kidneys, etc.)How do Harvard scientists claim to reverse mouse aging at cellular level? ›
Researchers from Harvard Medical School believe that epigenetic changes — and not just changes to the DNA — affect aging. This view is supported by experiments where epigenetic changes caused mice to first age and the reversal of the induced changes caused reverse aging.How intelligent are mice? ›
Rats and mice are highly intelligent rodents. They are natural students who excel at learning and understanding concepts. Rats are considerably smaller than dogs, but they are at least as capable of thinking about things and figuring them out as dogs are!Why are mice so smart? ›
Mice Have Impressive Detective Skills
They are able to detect food and danger easily as their sense of smell and hearing are superb. The human smell is particularly helpful to them as they use it to avoid areas frequented by people as well as mice controlling devices installed by humans.
Rodents in the Lab
In fact, studies are indicating that mice have many of the same decision-making abilities as rats. This means that mice can be trained in the lab like rats and used to study and understand human behaviors.
Ever since researchers sequenced the chimp genome in 2005, they have known that humans share about 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees, making them our closest living relatives.Are humans descended from mice? ›
Humans and mice derive from a common mammalian ancestor but have evolved independently in distinct biospheres over ~90 million years. This evolutionary process is responsible for the similarities between humans and mice that enable biomedical research and for the differences that must be transcended.
Mice and men share about 97.5 per cent of their working DNA, just one per cent less than chimps and humans.Can DNA of a human be changed? ›
Genome editing is a method for making specific changes to the DNA of a cell or organism. It can be used to add, remove or alter DNA in the genome. Human genome editing technologies can be used on somatic cells (non-heritable), germline cells (not for reproduction) and germline cells (for reproduction).Can a person have their DNA changed? ›
Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism's DNA. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.How do you reverse DNA damage naturally? ›
Regular physical exercise increases antioxidant capacity, protects DNA and reduces the effects of age-related declines in DNA repair. In one study, 16 weeks of physical exercise dramatically increased antioxidant activity, decreased DNA strand breaks and promoted DNA repair.Does fasting repair DNA? ›
Intermittent Fasting from Dawn to Sunset for 30 Consecutive Days is Associated with Anticancer Proteomic Signature and Upregulates Key Regulatory Proteins of Glucose and Lipid Metabolism, Circadian Clock, DNA Repair, Cytoskeleton Remodeling, Immune System and Cognitive Function in Healthy Subjects. Ayse L.Can humans repair their own DNA? ›
Most damage to DNA is repaired by removal of the damaged bases followed by resynthesis of the excised region. Some lesions in DNA, however, can be repaired by direct reversal of the damage, which may be a more efficient way of dealing with specific types of DNA damage that occur frequently.What foods repair DNA? ›
Lemons, persimmons, strawberries, broccoli, celery, and apples all conferred DNA protection at very low doses. Lemons, for example, were found to cut DNA damage by about a third.What helps aging skin on face? ›
- Protect your skin from the sun. Sun protection forms the foundation of every anti-aging skin-care plan. ...
- Forget about indoor tanning. ...
- Apply moisturizer every day. ...
- Wash away dirt and grime twice a day. ...
- Stop smoking. ...
- Eat healthy foods. ...
- Get enough sleep.
Some treatment options are available to permanently remove wrinkles from your skin, like dermabrasion. Not all procedures are permanent but they do offer temporary cosmetic changes to give you a more youthful appearance. You can get multiple procedures to remove wrinkles over time to maintain your results.How can I rebuild collagen in my face? ›
How can I naturally rebuild collagen? You can naturally support the collagen production process by using topicals such as vitamin C and retinol, collagen peptide supplements, eating a nutrient rich diet, and avoiding habits that damage the collagen (such as poor sleep and sun exposure.)
The “Benjamin Button” effect inspired by the popular motion picture, is used to describe the goal of achieving a clearly younger and more attractive, yet still natural appearance utilizing noninvasive and minimally invasive therapies and procedures.Is there a way to stop human aging? ›
There is little science can currently do to stop or slow aging. Death is relative to biological constraints. Billions of dollars go into studying and propagating “eternal youth.”What foods slow down aging? ›
- Romaine lettuce. It's high in vitamins A and C, which curb inflammation. ...
- Tomatoes. They're rich in a nutrient called lycopene. ...
- Salmon. It's high in omega-3 fats, which fight inflammation. ...
- Lentils and beans. These are good sources of protein and are loaded with fiber and nutrients. ...
Skin brightening treatments, like Microdermabrasion, Light Peels, Micro Laser Peels, or the Clear & Brilliant Laser treatment all help patients to look 10 years younger or more, with just a few treatments. These treatments can be used in order to combat the signs of aging in the face, such as: Wrinkles. Age spots.How can I reduce wrinkles on my face naturally? ›
- Wear sunscreen.
- Limit sugar intake.
- Quit smoking.
- Use coconut oil.
- Take beta carotene.
- Drink lemon balm leaf tea.
- Change sleep position.
- Wash your face.
From getting enough physical activity to limiting alcohol and stress, these habits reduce the risk of chronic disease and slow the aging process – helping you look and feel your best for years to come.What is the mice experiment? ›
Biologist John Calhoun's rodent experiments gripped a society consumed by fears of overpopulation. John Calhoun crouching inside Universe 25, his famous mouse-behavior experiment, February 1970. Officially, the colony was called the Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for Mice. Unofficially, it was called mouse heaven.What happened when inserting the human DNA into a mouse? ›
Researchers have increased the size of mouse brains by giving the rodents a piece of human DNA that controls gene activity. The work provides some of the strongest genetic evidence yet for how the human intellect surpassed those of all other apes.Why did the mice change colors? ›
As revealed on Science Journal, scientists of molecular and cell biology stated that the changes in mouse coat color were the result not of a single mutation but of at least nine mutations within a single gene. This gene, called agouti is responsible for changes in pigmentation in the coats of many animals.What is the mouse rule? ›
Mouse-Go Rule: Keep your subject and verb close.
Now, your reader has to work hard to identify the main subject (noun) and action (verb) of the sentence. When writers keep subject and verb close together in a sentence, they improve the readability. They don't confuse their readers.
The mouse has many similarities to humans in terms of anatomy, physiology and genetics. The mouse genome is very similar to our own, making mouse genetic research particularly useful for the study of human diseases.Why do humans experiment on mice? ›
Since mice share approximately 80 per cent of their genes with humans, modifying mouse DNA is a powerful method for creating animal models of human disease.Why are mice used in human research? ›
Mice and rats have long served as the preferred species for biomedical research animal models due to their anatomical, physiological, and genetic similarity to humans. Advantages of rodents include their small size, ease of maintenance, short life cycle, and abundant genetic resources.What disease are they trying to eliminate by changing the DNA of mice? ›
Researchers have also used CRISPR to cure muscular dystrophy in mice. Most likely, the first disease CRISPR helps cure will be caused by just one flaw in a single gene, like sickle cell disease.What can you conclude about the evolutionary relationship between mice and humans? ›
Almost all of the genes in mice share functions with the genes in humans. That means we develop in the same way from egg and sperm, and have the same kinds of organs (heart, brain, lungs, kidneys, etc.) as well as similar circulatory, reproductive, digestive, hormonal and nervous systems.Do humans have the same DNA as mice? ›
Mice and humans share approximately 70 percent of the same protein-coding gene sequences, though these genes constitute just 1.5 percent of their respective genomes.Do mice see less colors than humans? ›
Mice are dichromats that only possess short- and medium-wavelength-sensitive cones. They dont see red light; they only see blue and green light, similar to a person with red-green color blindness.Why is the mouse poop blue? ›
And if you find droppings that are green, blue, or pink instead of black, that means that the mice have been feeding on dyed rodent bait.Do mice change color as they age? ›
As mice age and damage occurs, pigment escapes the hair follicles to be engulfed by macrophages resulting in what is commonly called pigmentary incontenance. This will give the skin a slight change in color (Fig.What is the mouse 2 line answer? ›
The mouse is a small, movable device that lets you control a range of things on a computer. Most types of mouse have two buttons, and some will have a wheel in between the buttons. Most types of mouse connect to the computer with a cable, and use the computer's power to work. Some types of mouse are wireless.
MB1 (mouse button 1) is the left button. MB2 (mouse button 2) is the middle button. MB3 (mouse button 3) is the right button.Is Disney losing Mickey Mouse? ›
The decision to remove Mickey Mouse as Disney's official mascot is primarily due to legal issues. The copyright protection on Mickey Mouse is set to expire in January 2024. This means that Mickey Mouse will exist in the public domain and anyone can use him.