Welcome back! Last week, we talked about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
This week, we are going to look at the research that was recently released regarding aging. Specifically, reversing the aging process. Can it be done? Let’s see what the study has to say.
(photo credit: David Sinclair via CNN)
David Sinclair is a molecular biologist and works in a lab at Harvard Medical School. The mice in his lab are growing young again. Sinclair and his team have successfully reset aging cells in mice to earlier versions of themselves!
In 2020, Sinclair published in a study that he was able to give old mice with poor eyesight and damaged retinas vision that at times rivaled their offspring’s.
In an article written by Sandee LaMotte, Sinclair gave his perspective on the 2020 study.
“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 aging process.
“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.
Which came first, the cart or the horse?
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.”
“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.
The Information Theory of Aging
“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.”
“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.”
What does epigenome mean?
I will soon be referring to the word “epigenome”, so let’s define it.
The epigenome literally turns genes on and off. The epigenome is made up of chemical compounds and proteins that can attach to DNA and direct such actions as turning genes on or off, controlling the production of proteins in particular cells.
The most recent study
A study was published on January 12, 2023, and here are the highlights:
- Cellular responses to double-stranded DNA breaks erode the epigenetic landscape
- This loss of epigenetic information accelerates the hallmarks of aging
- These changes are reversible by epigenetic reprogramming
- By manipulating the epigenome, aging can be driven forward and backward
“One of our breakthroughs was to realize that if you use a particular set of three pluripotent stem cells, the mice don’t go back to age zero, which would cause cancer or worse,” Sinclair said. “Instead, the cells go back to between 50% and 75% of the original age, and they stop and don’t get any younger, which is lucky. How the cells know to do that, we don’t yet understand.”
When will this be available?
Obviously, it will be years before this research is put to use on humans, but between now and then, Sinclair says there are ways to beat the clock, so to speak. Slowing the aging process is fairly simple.
“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.
What triggers us to age in the first place?
That process can be triggered by pollution, environmental toxins, and human behaviors such as smoking, eating an inflammatory diet, or suffering a chronic lack of sleep. And just like a computer, the cellular process becomes corrupted as more DNA is broken or damaged, Sinclair said.
“The cell panics, and proteins that normally would control the genes get distracted by having to go and repair the DNA,” he explained. “Then they don’t all find their way back to where they started, so over time it’s like a Ping-Pong match, where the balls end up all over the floor.”
How can we know this actually works in mice?
Sinclair has been working on his theory for years, starting as a graduate student. He was part of a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that discovered the existence of genes to control aging in yeast. Sinclair surmised that this gene exists in all creatures, so there should be a way to do the same in people.
To test the theory, he began trying to fast-forward aging in mice without causing mutations or cancer.
“We started making that mouse when I was 39 years old. I’m now 53, and we’ve been studying that mouse ever since,” he said. “If the theory of information aging was wrong, then we would get either a dead mouse, a normal mouse, an aging mouse, or a mouse that had cancer. We got aging.”
All the behaviors recommended by Sinclair such as eating a plant-based diet, 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.
Human behavior and one’s environment play a key role in controlling one’s epigenome.
For example, if you were born with a genetic predisposition for heart disease and diabetes, you could circumvent their destruction by exercising, eating a plant-focused diet, getting good sleep, and managing your stress levels for most of your life. If you did all of this, then it’s possible those genes would never be activated.
The final thoughts
“The message is every day counts,” Sinclair said. “How you live your life even when you’re in your teens and 20s really matters, even decades later, because every day your clock is ticking.”
As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.
That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.
Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!