Have scientists cracked it? Can we reverse the aging process?


Finding the fountain of youth has been an age-old search, but a new trial may have found just that, or at least its beginnings.

Whether it has been through using hormone therapy, cosmetic surgery or even basic over-the-counter cosmetic products promising to wipe the years off your skin, humanity’s preoccupation with ageing and its results on one’s health has been long sustained and forms part of a lucrative medical and cosmetic market.

A new study by scientists in California, US, has shown surprising results that when using a drug regimen of a growth hormone, a steroid and diabetes medication, one’s epigenetic clock can be reversed.

The body’s epigenetic clock measures a person’s biological age – and while this mix didn’t shave off chronological age in its nine participants, aged between 51 and 65, it did on average shed 2.5 years off their biological ages, measured by analysing marks on their genomes – a human’s entire DNA set and genes.

“Population ageing is an increasingly important problem in developed countries, bringing with it a host of medical, social, economic and psychological problems,” the researchers noted.

“Over the past several years, many biomedical approaches to ameliorating ageing have been investigated in animal models. Some of these seem able to reverse general aspects of ageing in adult mammals on a variety of physiological measurements.”

But up until now, there hadn’t been evidence that systemic ageing could be reversed.

The study, titled Reversal of Epigenetic Aging and Immunosenescent Trends in Humans, was published in the scientific journal Aging Cell this month and is funded by Intervene Immune, a company specialising in pioneering clinical methods to reverse immune system ageing.

The main aim of the trial named Triim (Thymus Regeneration, Immunorestoration, and Insulin Migration), was to investigate the possibility of thymus regeneration through the use of a growth hormone to prevent or reverse the deterioration of the immune system, which is brought on by age.

At the end of the year, the researchers studied the volunteers’ DNA. On inspection, it was found that on average 2.5 years had been removed from the volunteers’ biological ages.

The gland responsible for the proper functioning of the immune system – the thymus – sits behind your sternum, between your lungs.

“Thymic involution” refers to the shrinking of this gland with age, which leads to the depletion of immune cells.

This shrinking is linked to age-related increases in cancer incidence, infectious diseases, autoimmune conditions and generalised inflammation.

The results support that it is possible to regenerate the gland, but scientists also unexpectedly got evidence that this could lead to a reversal of multiple aspects and biomarkers of ageing in humans.

A few times a week for a year, each of the subjects self-administered a growth hormone; a recombinant human growth hormone; dehydroepiandrosterone, a steroid; and metformin, a diabetes drug.

At the end of the year, the researchers studied the volunteers’ DNA. On inspection, it was found that on average 2.5 years had been removed from the volunteers’ biological ages.

However, the scientists stressed the need for a follow-up study to verify the results, adding though that “the general prospects for meaningful amelioration of human ageing appear to be remarkably promising”.

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