Scientists in Harvard University Claims to have come tantalizingly close to discovering the proverbial fountain of youth. According to a recent publication in Journal of Science The elderlyThe team identified six chemical compounds capable of reversing the aging process in human and mouse skin cells.
A molecular biologist at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the study, Dr. David Sinclair hailed it as a “breakthrough” and saw it as a step towards “affordable whole-body rejuvenation”.
Human trials could begin within the next year, Dr. Sinclair has suggested. The prediction caught the attention of luminaries like tech giant Elon Musk. He eagerly responded to the news, “Okay, so what is it?”
How to Create a Fountain of Youth Pill
The researchers used high-throughput cell-based assays to distinguish young cells from their older, mature counterparts. These senescent cells are cells that have stopped proliferating, which is a hallmark of aging.
Through high-throughput screening, the team was able to rapidly screen thousands to millions of samples for biological activity at the model organism, cellular, pathway, or molecular level.
Specific markers used for aging include transcription-based aging clocks and the real-time nucleocytoplasmic protein compartmentalization (NCC) assay. NCC plays a vital role in cells including stem cells, bone cells, and muscle cells.
Six chemical cocktails for anti-aging
This comprehensive approach resulted in the identification of six chemical compounds that, according to the press release, “restored NCC and genome-wide transcript profiles to youthful states and reversed transcriptomic age (biological age).”
When these cocktails were tested in mice and human cells, the results suggested that all six combinations slowed aging.
“The effect of this four-day treatment was comparable to the total change seen after one year of a regenerative treatment described in a landmark 2019 study, which also focused on restoring epigenetic information,” the researchers said. The researchers assessed age change using mouse and human transcriptomic clocks, which predict biological age using gene expression data.
“This new discovery offers the potential to reverse aging with a single pill, with applications ranging from improving vision to effectively treating age-related diseases,” said Dr. Sinclair said.
Some experts are skeptical
However, other biologists met this exciting claim with skepticism. Matt Keberlin, a biogerontologist, offered cautious praise. He says the innovative screening method could one day lead to significant discoveries. However, he noted that the study is preliminary.
Keberlein suggested the team validate at least one of the compounds in an animal model. He believes they should have shown improvements in age-related health measures or life expectancy before making these claims about biological aging.
Metabolism researcher Dr. Charles Brenner raised concerns about three compounds in the study. The first is CHIR99021, which blocks glycogen formation that is activated during sleep to store energy. Next is the antidepressant tricypromine. Finally, valproic acid is used to treat bipolar disorder, but can harm the liver.
The study did not mention these potential risks. “These are generally unsafe alone or in combination,” Brenner cautioned.
Moreover, Brunner criticized the study for not using single-cell sequencing to assess cell identity. He noted that researchers reported these cocktails in 2013, indicating that the compounds are not new discoveries. “Getting these readouts in cells is not a groundbreaking study of reversing aging,” Brenner said.
Amidst these reactions, it is clear that more research and careful examination is needed before declaring the arrival of a true fountain of youth.
What is the fountain of youth?
The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring that restores youth to anyone who drinks or bathes in its waters. People around the world have told stories about such a fountain for thousands of years. References to the fountain of youth can be found in the writings of Herodotus, the Romance of Alexander, and the stories of John the Prester.
The exact location of the mythical fountain is described differently in various stories and legends. One of the most popular affiliate regions is Florida.
Tradition says that Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, the first European to reach Florida, discovered Florida while searching for the fountain of youth. However, there is no contemporary evidence to support this claim.
In modern times, people often use the fountain of youth metaphorically to represent anything capable of prolonging life or reversing aging. This could be anything from a scientific breakthrough to a new skincare product or a healthy lifestyle.
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