Anti-Aging The Harvard Way

Harvard researchers made a two-year-old mouse look like it was six-months-old.

Ponce de Leon would be proud. And the billion dollar beauty business is holding its breath. That’s because Harvard researchers may have found the “Fountain of Youth.” Seriously.

Now, before you go and throw out your $500 night cream, we should note that so far the procedure was only done on mice. And as you know, we are not mice. Is there a direct correlation between mice and humans? Researchers are still looking into that.

But the news is truly exciting for those trying to look younger.

U.S. and Australian researchers say the cause of aging in mammals may be reversible and the key is the chemical NAD that facilitates cell communication. David Sinclair, of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Genetics, is the lead author of a new paper published in the journal, Cell, that describes the findings.

Sinclair and his team found muscle from 2-year-old mice given the NAD-producing compound for one week, had tissue resembling that of 6-month-old mice. In human years, according to the report, this would be like a 60-year-old converting to a 20-year-old in these specific areas.

Researchers have been skeptical of the idea that aging could be reversed, mainly because the prevailing theory has always been that age-related ills are the result of mutations in mitochondrial DNA, and these mutations cannot be reversed. So does that mean that researchers have been secretly laughing at us for decades as we spend our hard earned money buying anti-aging creams?

“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,” Sinclair said in a statement. “And just like with a couple, restoring communication solved the problem.”

Sinclair said in the report that the essence of the finding is a series of molecular events that enable communication inside cells between the nucleus and mitochondria. Mitochondria are often referred to as the cell’s “powerhouse,” generating chemical energy to carry out essential biological functions.

According to the study:

As communication breaks down, aging accelerates. By administering a molecule naturally produced by the human body, the scientists restored the communication network in older mice. Subsequent tissue samples showed key biological hallmarks that were comparable to those of much younger animals.

Sinclair and his team studied the fundamental science of aging — broadly defined as the gradual decline in function with time — primarily focusing on a group of genes called sirtuins. Previous research showed one of these genes, SIRT1, was activated by the compound resveratrol found in grapes, red wine and certain nuts.

“There’s clearly much more work to be done here, but if these results stand, then certain aspects of aging may be reversible if caught early,” Sinclair says.

Sinclair and his team are exploring whether this new research can be used to treat rare diseases, or more common diseases such as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.