According to a new study from the researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of New South Wales, the actually cellular processes that cause aging of the blood vessels have been understood.
Dr. David Sinclair senior investigator, a professor and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School led the study where they showed that aging in mice could be reversed with certain techniques. It might be soon that these principles could be applied to humans as well. The results of the study were published in the latest issue of the journal Cell, this week.
According to Sinclair with age there is a rapid decline in vitality and a person becomes weaker with a reduced capacity for exercise. One of the main reasons behind this is that the flow of blood through the bodies via blood vessels is impaired with age. This means that all the cells, tissues and organs do not get enough oxygenated blood as when they did when the body was younger. This deficiency of oxygen and lack of blood flow leads to accumulation of toxins in the tissues. Toxins raise the propensity for diseases such as liver and kidney damage, dementia etc. In this new study, he explained, they have successfully reversed this process in mice.
Sinclair went on to explain that they have been working on a molecule called resveratrol. This molecule has been developed into better options now to reverse aging. The team noted that there are genes in the body that can respond to exercise and dieting. These genes can be switched on using certain chemicals and molecules. One of the molecules tested successfully was nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) a form of vitamin B3 that is produced by the body normally.
These pills so far as testing goes have been found to be safe in mice. Soon they may be ready for human testing and trials he said. When these molecules are given to the mice, they show rejuvenating effects on their blood vessels. The mice they tested these molecules are 2 years old in the lab. This is a human equivalent of 75 to 80 years. On application of these molecules, these mice became youthful and vital. Similar effects would be seen if they would have been regularly exercising explains Sinclair. The 18 month old mice that were given NMN for two months showed a 56 to 80 percent increase in endurance. Similar effects were also seen in 32 months old mice as well.
The research team is hopeful that similar effects with similar safety profiles would be seen among humans too once large scale human clinical trials begin. Sinclair says that these problems of aging are not as complex as Alzheimer’s disease and so they should be fairly easy to treat. According to him, people would benefit from this treatment in near future. According to Dr Abhirup Das, the study’s lead author and an anti-ageing researcher at the University of NSW, NMN that they tried can make older cells healthy. It can successfully improve blood flow in the capillaries.
Thus the next challenge say the researchers is to make the drug and ensure that it is safe and effective in humans. Sinclair says that these pills could not only help the elderly to reach their exercise potentials and feel youthful and vital but also be used to treat age related frailty, muscle wasting, dementia and even diabetes. If it shows same effects as in mice, people should be able to wake up without aches and grans and show improved stamina. Those restricted to their beds or wheelchairs may get back to their normal routines with these drugs he said. Phase one human trials of NMN have already been completed. Soon phase 2 trials to check for effectiveness and safety would be started, say the researchers.
According to Sinclair, their hurdle is the drug safety now. Once that is established they hope that this new drug can not only increase stamina but actually extend the lifespans of the individuals. That is their final goal he stated.