Researchers at Harvard have reversed the aging process in mice. First they prematurely aged the mice by genetically engineering out telomerase, an enzyme that creates protective caps on the end of DNA strands called telomeres. The mice suffered from a variety of age-related afflictions such as testes reduced in size and depleted of sperm, atrophied spleens, damage to the intestines, and shrinkage of the brain along with an inability to grow new brain cells, all of which were reversed with the reintroduction of the enzyme.
“We at best expected it to be a slowing of the process or perhaps an arresting of the process. We did not anticipate that it would be so dramatic a reversal in all of the problems that the animal was experiencing,” said Dr. Ronald DiPinho.
But don’t cancel your life insurance policy just yet. The mice didn’t live any longer, just better. And the enzyme could have the side effect of making cancer cells “virtually immortal.” DePinho says one solution might be limiting exposure to days or weeks at a time.