Can Natural Aging Ever Be Reversed?
Researchers have discovered a link between DNA damage, cellular “senescence” and premature aging.
The finding could lead to treatments that counteract some of the effects of progeria, conditions that cause premature aging. Eventually, even the effects of natural aging could be forestalled.
The study, from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, was published in the journal Cell.
The investigators looked at the effect of the chemical messenger interferon, a molecule that is naturally produced by the body in response to invading pathogens such as viruses. The Penn team found that interferon signaling ramps up in response to double-stranded DNA breaks and that this signaling prompts cells to enter senescence (a dormant state).
When the researchers inactivated the interferon signaling pathways in a mouse model of progeria, however, they were able to extend the animals’ lives. These mice were more fertile, had less gray hair and were larger and more robust than animals in which the interferon pathway was still active, according to a news release from the university.
“Our findings imply that some of the effects of DNA damage could be managed by perhaps locally blocking interferon signaling,” said Serge Y. Fuchs, senior author on the study and a professor of cell biology in Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
Although the study didn’t relate directly to human aging, Fuchs said future studies could shed light on ways to mitigate its negative effects.