Chinese scientists claim they have developed a new type of treatment that can delay the effects of aging and extend the lifespan of mice.
Experts say the anti-aging developments in the new gene therapy could one day be applied to humans.
The method, described in an article in the Science Translational Medicine Journal, involves inactivating a gene called kat7 that scientists have found to be a major contributor to cell aging.
The specific therapy they used and the results were a world first, said project co-supervisor Professor Qu Jing.
The 40-year-old specialist in aging and regenerative medicine from the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said: “These mice show an overall improved appearance and grip strength after 6 to 8 months and above all have a longer lifespan for about 25 percent. “
The team of biologists from different CAS departments examined thousands of genes for those that were particularly responsible for the senescence of the cells. This term describes cell aging.
They identified 100 genes out of roughly 10,000, and kat7 was most efficient at contributing to senescence in cells, Qu said.
Kat7 is one of tens of thousands of genes found in mammalian cells. The researchers inactivated it in the livers of the mice using a method known as a lentiviral vector.
Professor Jing said, “We have just tested the function of the gene in different types of cells, human stem cells, mesenchymal progenitor cells, human liver cells, and mouse liver cells, and we have not done this for all of these cells.” No detectable cell toxicity.
“And we haven’t seen any side effects for the mice either.”
Even so, the method is far from ready for human trials, Qu said.
She added, “It is definitely necessary to test the function of kat7 in other human cell types and other mouse organs, as well as in other pre-clinical animals, before applying the human aging or other health condition strategy.
“In the end, we hope that we can find a way to delay aging by even a very small percentage in the future.”
Professor Jing said she hoped to test the method on primates next, but it would take a lot of money and a lot more research first.