Researchers have now identified a cellular mechanism that allows to reverse ageing in mouse DNA, and even protect it from future damage. By using a particular compound on older mice, they are able to activate a DNA repair process, and besides preventing future DNA damage, they can repair existing effects of ageing, and in six months, it will start to be tested in humans.
“The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment”, told David Sinclair, the head researcher from the University of New South Wales in Australia and the Harvard Medical School in Boston.
“This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that’s perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well”.
You may remember him, he and his team announced in 2013 that they found that the younger mice cells contained more of a compound named nicotinaminde adenine dinucleotide, also known as NAD+, than the older ones, and when they started to give old mice more NAD+, they started to look young again.
This was a big deal, but when we are dealing with medicine and you want to use something as a treatment, you have to first understand how it’s interacting with the body, and although the effects of NAD+ were undeniable, they couldn’t say for sure how was it acting.
On this new study, Sinclair and his team outline in detail the mechanism through which NAD+ protects DNA from the damage of aging and radiation in mice. When we are born, all our cells have the ability to repair DNA damage, but as we get older, our ability to patch up the damaged DNA declines and our cells begin to age.
The researchers have shown in this last study that a lot this damage is due to a DNA-repair compound called PARP1, and when there’s a lot of NAD+ in a cell, PARP1 keeps the out DNA healthy. But when NAD+ drops due to the ageing, PARP1 starts to decline, and damage builds up.
They are now planning to trial a similar drug in humans this year, not only for anti-ageing purposes, but also to protect DNA from damages of any kind.
The team is also collaborating with NASA to see if this could help protect astronauts against space radiation during their four-year journey to Mars, where is predicted that about 5 percent of the astronauts’ cells would die, and their chances of cancer will go to 100 percent.
This is also important to childhood cancer survivors and so, since 96 percent of them will suffer from a chronic illness by the age of 45, like a cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, or cancers not related to their previous one.
“All of this adds up to the fact they have accelerated ageing, which is devastating”, said the researcher, Lindsay Wu. “It would be great to do something about that, and we believe we can with this molecule”.
We got to keep in mind that not all studies that go well in mice, can be replicated in humans, but at least there’s the hope, and we’ll soon know something, and hope for it!