16:02 23 December 2013
An American team set out to use a chemical to rejuvenate muscles in mice and transformed their muscles from that of a 60-year-old's to the equivilent of a third that old without altering the strength levels, paving the way for further anti-ageing studies.
The findings were published in the journal Cell, charting the Harvard Medical School's team and their "exciting findings" in relation to a chemical called NAD. With age, its levels naturally drop in all cells but the researchers found a way to trick it into submission>
By disrupting the mitochondria of the cells (their central power), there was less energy produced and therefore less ageing. The team then gave the mice a chemical which they naturally convert into NAD, essentially reversing the ageing process.
The two-year-old mice had one week's worth of youth medication causing their muscles to revert to those of a six-month old in terms of wastage, inflammatory issues, insulin resistance and mitochondrial function.
Dr Ana Gomes, from the department of genetics at Harvard Medical School, said: "We believe this is quite an important finding."
However, there are many aspects of the ageing process that this treatment would not address.
Dr Gomes told the BBC: "Ageing is multi-factorial, it's not just one component we can fix, so it's hard to target the whole thing.
"I believe there is a lot of cross-talk in cells and energy is very important in a cell and likely to be a very big component of ageing that might cause some of the other things that happen with ageing."
Prof Tim Spector, from Kings College London, commented: "This is an intriguing and exciting finding that some aspects of the aging process are reversible.
"It is however a long and tough way to go from these nice mouse experiments to showing real anti-aging effects in humans without side effects."
Also commenting to the BBC was Dr Ali Tavassoli, from the University of Southampton, who said: "It is important to note, that they did not see any changes in the mouse itself.
"This could be for one of two reasons. Either they need to treat for longer so that the changes occurring in the cells have time to affect the whole organism, or alternatively, the biochemical changes by themselves are not sufficient to reverse the physical changes associated with ageing in the mouse."
The research group hopes to begin clinical trials in 2015 to build on the work they've already accomplished.