Aging Process Reversed in Mice Say Scientists

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People are always looking for ways to slow, stop, or reverse the aging process, and scientists have been investigating this area of medicine with vigor. A new study reports that the aging process can be reversed in mice by removing old white blood cells called B lymphocytes.

Will we ever reverse the aging process in humans?

B lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that plays a critical role in the immune system. Among their main functions is the production of antibodies against antigens, invasive organisms or substances such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins that can result in illness and disease and that contribute to the aging process.

Based on previous data showing that B cell production declines with age and that old B cells accumulate and have a limited ability to function, researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology decided to remove B lymphocytes from old mice, thereby forcing the body to produce new, potent cells to replace them.

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Under direction of lead researcher Professor Doron Melamed of the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, the scientists discovered that removing the B lymphocytes created a state of deficiency in the mice. This forced their bodies to kick-start the bone marrow to produce B cells again at a rate similar to that seen in young mice.

Once new B lymphocytes were produced, the scientists found this led to a 400 percent improvement in the ability of the treated mice to respond to vaccinations. This finding offers a new way to enhance the effectiveness of vaccinations among the elderly, noted Melamed.

In another recent study on reversing the aging process, researchers showed that blocking growth hormone in mice with a substance called MZ-5-156 could improve life span. This goes against popular thinking, which is that taking growth hormone, not blocking it, may slow aging.

It is much too early to know where all the research into manipulating the aging process will lead us. However, this latest study illustrates that “we have succeeded in showing that it is possible to turn back the aging process,” said Melamed, at least in mice.

SOURCES:
Banks WA et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2010 Dec 21; 107(51): 22272-77
Keren Z et al. Blood 2011 Jan; DOI: 10.1182/blood-2010-09-307983

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