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Scientists have learned to reverse aging: how to beat the Biblical centenarians and live up to a thousand years

Anti-aging research is one of the most rapidly developing areas of science and medicine today.

Anti-aging research is one of the most rapidly developing areas of science and medicine today.

Photo: Shutterstock

Anti-aging research is one of the most rapidly developing areas of science and medicine today. The fact that it is possible to rejuvenate cells, practically eliminating their age, and grow young organs is already a reality. The future that has come. Expert in biomedical technologies, candidate of biological sciences, senior researcher in the laboratory for the study of aging at Harvard Medical School and Moscow State University Alexander Tyshkovskyspeaking at the webinar, spoke about simple and affordable methods of rejuvenation that definitely work.

WHERE IS THE LIMIT OF HUMAN LIFE?

Aging is the process of changes in our body, in which the likelihood of getting sick and dying increases with age. In fact, the aging mechanism starts from the very moment the embryo is formed, the scientist recalls. And as we age, errors and damage accumulate in our DNA. The average life expectancy for a person, with successful developments, is 73 years (women are luckier here due to the protective effect of the hormone estradiol).

However, imagine that aging could be stopped, say, in 30 years. Then, under ideal conditions, mathematical calculations show that a person could live up to 1250 years and, it turns out, even break the records of Biblical centenarians.

The fact that approaching the optimal option for humans in nature is possible is shown to us by animals that have already “conquered aging.” These are naked mole rats (in captivity they live an unprecedentedly long time for small rodents, more than 30 years) or bowhead whales (they live to be over 200 years old) or sharks, which only reach puberty at 150 years old and live up to 300 years. And among people there are super-centenarians. Everyone has heard the example of a 122-year-old funny old lady Jeanne Kalmanwho was lucky with genetics, and she could be active and humorous even at one hundred and twenty years old.

HOW TO GET YOUNGER?

In fact, there are only two ways to influence the aging process. Firstly, you can slow down the appearance of damage in DNA, and secondly, you can from time to time simply get rid of cells in which various damage and debris have already accumulated.

Today’s most proven scientific way to slow down the biological clock is a low-calorie diet, which has been proven to work in living organisms from monkeys to yeast. Experiments on low-calorie nutrition in humans have shown that over a two-year horizon, such a diet has been proven to reduce blood pressure and bad cholesterol, which has a positive effect on life expectancy.

Calorie restriction helps avoid obesity, and excess fat is a big risk factor that causes systemic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, etc.

Diet, in fact, activates the so-called survival system at the cellular level.

– In the cell we have an insulin signaling pathway, a way of recognizing nutrients. It is triggered by insulin, a hormone released in response to sugar intake. Oddly enough, when a cell has a lot of food, it turns off the damage repair system through the insulin signaling pathway, says Alexander Tyshkovsky. “And when there is no insulin, on the contrary, when we are hungry or haven’t eaten enough, the cell begins to repair its damage.

THINK LIKE EVOLUTION

Why do we need a survival system? To understand evolution, you need to think like evolution, says the scientist. When everything is good, safe, and there is food, the logical evolutionary strategy in this case is to reproduce if you are already an adult, store food for the “hungry time” and grow if you are not yet grown.

“At the same time, if you left offspring, then it is not so important how long you live; here and now the most important thing is to leave offspring,” says Alexander Tyshkovsky. – So at the cellular level, repairing damage fades into the background. And when there is no food and you are hungry, what can you do? There is nothing to store, it’s hard to grow, it becomes harmful to reproduce, because you can’t feed yourself and you can’t raise offspring. So there is only one way left – to survive. At the same time, the body’s cells activate the DNA damage repair system, the antioxidant system is also activated, which reduces oxidative stress (which ages cells and tissues – editor’s note), autophagy cells are activated, which fight internal damage, and so on.

Expert in biomedical technologies, candidate of biological sciences, senior researcher at the laboratory for the study of aging at Harvard Medical School and Moscow State University Alexander Tyshkovsky

Expert in biomedical technologies, candidate of biological sciences, senior researcher at the laboratory for the study of aging at Harvard Medical School and Moscow State University Alexander Tyshkovsky

Photo: Personal page of the publication’s hero on the social network

SO ARE THERE ANY MEDICATIONS FOR OLD AGE?

Yes and no. Three independent laboratories in the world are testing existing drugs that could theoretically prolong life, the scientist says.

– For example, rapamycin is being studied for anti-ageing properties – this is an immunosuppressant that reduces the immune response in transplantation so that donor organs are not rejected. It works through the insulin signaling pathway, meaning the way it works is similar to how diet works. In experiments on mice, the results are not bad. But what works in small animals does not always work in humans.

Over many years of testing, the positive effect of slowing down aging has been shown:

– metformin, used to treat type 2 diabetes and lowers blood sugar levels;

– amino acid glycine, it activates autophagy when cells digest damage accumulated in them;

– acarbose, this substance prevents starch from being broken down in the intestines, as a result – less sugar enters the blood and less insulin is produced;

– protandim, a mixture of five plant extracts, including green tea extract.

True, none of these substances can be used to prevent aging. Since aging is not recognized as a disease in the WHO classification, there is only the concept of diseases associated with aging. This means that it will not yet be possible to conduct clinical trials in terms of preventing aging, either for existing drugs or for new ones.

TEA AND COFFEE INSTEAD OF REJUVENING APPLES

Among the simplest but most effective ways to prolong life, scientists have discovered the benefits of green tea and coffee.

Green tea contains polyphenols that trigger the hormesis effect in our body, where short-term stress is beneficial because it activates the survival system. That is, polyphenols are actually such “weak poisons”, because in order to harm yourself with green tea, you still have to try. However, the cell perceives polyphenols as stressors and activates the survival system. Experiments have shown that green tea reduces overall mortality by 40-50 percent in people with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

“This is essentially the same case when we drink a substance at breakfast that causes us stress at the cellular level, but at the same time it is good for our health,” says Alexander Tyshkovsky.

Polyphenols activate damage repair mechanisms inside cells and this reduces overall mortality and death from certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

In addition, green tea reduces the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and senile dementia, which is important because there are still no sufficiently effective drugs for neurodegenerative diseases.

Among the simplest but most effective ways to prolong life, scientists have discovered the benefits of green tea and coffee.

Among the simplest but most effective ways to prolong life, scientists have discovered the benefits of green tea and coffee.

Photo: Shutterstock

The situation with coffee is no worse. Coffee, like green tea, contains polyphenols that help. Plus, there is caffeine, which also activates the damage repair system at the cellular level. True, it is important not to overdo it with coffee and it is better not to drink this drink after lunch, because caffeine reduces the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and this can lead to difficulties falling asleep.

In addition, metabolic intolerance to coffee is possible. If it is, then a genetic test will help identify it. Well, at the everyday level, coffee intolerance can manifest itself in such a way that after a cup of hot black drink you become not cheerful, but lethargic, and have a headache.

THE FUTURE IS NOW

Life extension is now possible at the level of rejuvenation of individual organs. For example, quite recently it was done unique experiment with the heart. As we age, our motor is less well supplied with blood, and scientists added a certain gene to heart tissue that improves the growth of heart vessels. It really helps prolong life.

“You can go to a very high level – engage in transplantation of young organs,” says Alexander Tyshkovsky.

Roll back aging, almost like in the story of a movie hero Benjamin Buttonwhich has only grown younger over the years, possibly with the help of induced pluripotent stem cell technology.

“To put it simply,” says the scientist, “they take adult cells, for example, fibroblasts—skin cells—and by acting on them with a certain cocktail of active substances, you can reverse their age by transferring them to an embryonic state.” Then from these embryonic cells you can get any cells of any organ: heart muscle, neurons, fat cells, whatever.

It turns out that scientists have really learned how to reverse aging, which opens up enormous prospects.

– For example, now you can help people with Parkinson’s disease. People with this disease begin to die of certain neurons in the brain, actually having fewer cells. So, for such patients, new neurons can be grown from skin cells and transplanted into the brain. And such work was recently donewhich slowed down the progress of the disease, says Alexander Tyshkovsky.

Another striking example, a woman who was losing her sight managed to grow a cornea in this way.

You can go even further and use such young cells to create entire organs.

– This is advanced science, as they say, on the razor’s edge. Scientists, for example, managed to print a heart on a 3D printer, says Alexander Tyshkovsky. – A biopsy of adipose tissue was taken from the patient, liposuction was performed, and then the fat cells were turned into an embryonic state and heart muscle cells and blood vessel walls were grown from them. Then layer by layer printed heart. Small, the size of a rabbit, that is, this is a prototype of the heart that could be tested for transplantation. So the technology has proven to be workable. In this way, heart valves are already being actively printed.

Of course, we ourselves can print a heart, but we can ask Mother Nature to do the same, the scientist argues.

Modern science is getting closer to the possibility of growing organs inside other animals. So, for example, you can take a pig embryo and turn off a certain gene in it, for example, the one that is needed for the formation of the pancreas. What will happen? This embryo can grow into a pig with all organs except the pancreas. But the pig won’t survive that way. However, if induced pluripotent human stem cells are implanted into the modified embryo, then the pancreas of the grown pig will be formed by human cells. It can be surgically removed and transplanted into a person. To date, we have been able to grow rat pancreas in mice, and mouse organs in rats.

– That is, this method of life extension is already working. There are also options in which they are trying to grow human organs in monkeys – macaques. Work is underway, and this is an extremely promising area,” says Alexander Tyshkovsky. – So, perhaps, you and I will witness the first clinical trials of anti-aging drugs on humans and we ourselves will be able to try out all those developments that are already successfully working on animals.

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