Let’s go back to middle school science class and check out a major recent development in biology, shall we? Ok, probably not the most enticing lead in, but you really should check out this story about a promising new study that shows for the first time ever how ageing processes may be reversible in humans.
The study. Scientists at Tel Aviv University conducted a trial in which 35 healthy adults ages 64 and older were placed in a hyperbaric chamber for 90 minutes for 5 days a week for 3 months. They were also breathing 100% oxygen through a mask during this time.
The results. The length of the telomeres of the patients increased by 20%, and the senescent cells were reduced by 37%.
What’s that mean? Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of the chromosomes. As people get older, the telomeres shorten, which can cause damage to DNA and stop cells from replicating. While this happens, senescent or “zombie” cells can build up, preventing regeneration.
The money quote. "Since telomere shortening is considered the 'Holy Grail' of the biology of ageing, many pharmacological and environmental interventions are being extensively explored in the hopes of enabling telomere elongation," said Professor Shai Efrati of the Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University.
If you want to learn more about telomeres, a good starting point is a book by Drs. Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel called The Telomere Effect.