Day after day this ambitious goal is beginning to become reality thanks to the progress of biomedical research.
For several years, researchers have believed that the cells most damaged by aging, called "senescent", damage the surrounding tissue causing many of the pathologies characteristic of old age. These cells, which due to the damage of time have stopped dividing, continue to secrete large quantities of molecules, many of them toxic, in the surrounding environment.
In one study recently published in the prestigious magazine Nature the scientists of the "Mayo Clinic" in Minnesota, not only have they tried the link between senescent cells and old age pathologies but they also demonstrate how, by getting rid of these cells, the health of older mice is significantly improved.
In the image you can see two mice of the same age protagonists of the study. One of them shows signs of "lordocyphosis", the obvious problem of the spine, "sarcopenia", loss of muscle mass, cataracts and other diseases. The second, apparently in good health, was treated by researchers by removing senescent cells from some of his tissues.
Scientists were able to selectively eliminate senescent cells from genetically modified mice by stimulating apoptosis (a kind of programmed cell suicide) when they expressed the p16Ink4a gene. The senescent cells were removed in this way from musculoskeletal tissue, fat tissue and that of the lens. As a result, a notable reduction in aging pathologies affecting these tissues was observed. Unfortunately, the lifespan of the mice did not significantly change following treatment. This is explained by the fact that heart attack is the main cause of death in guinea pigs and the treatment was not applied to the heart tissue or other internal organs of the mice, which therefore continued to age anyway.
Researchers are already working on treating all tissues at once to see how much this can increase life expectancy in mice.
Senescent cells are only one aspect of the aging process. The eccentric biogerontologist for several years Aubrey de Gray, founder of the SENS foundation (an organization dedicated to creating and promoting scientific research aimed at defeating aging) hypothesizes that the main mechanisms responsible for biological aging are 7: among these there is also the problem of senescent cells for the
which he proposed a solution in principle similar to that described in this article.
It will probably be years before the technique devised by the researchers of the Mayo clinic can be applied to humans, however this study remains an important step towards the possibility of "rejuvenating" our bodies by treating the ravages of time. In a society where the average age rises more and more, defeating aging in order to have an always active and healthy population will be increasingly a social and
economic as well as the realization of a millennial dream of humanity.