A new study points to a compound that may reverse the signs of aging.
The joint study between Harvard Medical School, the National Institute on Aging, and the University of New South Wales in Australia used a naturally produced compound on mice to restore communication that occurs inside cells, Science Daily reported.
The breakdown of that communication is the cause of many physiological signs of aging.
"The aging process we discovered is like a married couple -- when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down," said the author’s senior study, Harvard Medical School Professor of Genetics David Sinclair.
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"And just like with a couple, restoring communication solved the problem."
Tissue samples from the mice revealed cells that looked like those of much younger critters. By reviving communication between a cell’s nucleus and mitochondria, it may be possible to reverse age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
The study stands to challenge the prevailing notion in scientific communities that aging cannot be reversed. It could even help stave off cancer, as a certain molecule called HIF-1 is activated during cancer, as well as during aging, when cells are deprived of oxygen.
"It's certainly significant to find that a molecule that switches on in many cancers also switches on during aging," said Ana Gomes, a postdoctoral scientist in Sinclair’s lab. "We're starting to see now that the physiology of cancer is in certain ways similar to the physiology of aging. Perhaps this can explain why the greatest risk of cancer is age. "
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"There's clearly much more work to be done here, but if these results stand, then many aspects of aging may be reversible if caught early," said Sinclair.