Have scientists discovered the cure for old age?

21 July 2018 - 09:49 By Dave Chambers
Keshav K. Singh, Ph.D., a UAB expert on the roles of mitochondria in cancer, mitochondrial disease and aging
Keshav K. Singh, Ph.D., a UAB expert on the roles of mitochondria in cancer, mitochondrial disease and aging
Image: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Genetics experts introduced hair loss and wrinkles in a mouse then reversed them‚ raising hopes that they have discovered a cure for symptoms of old age.

Keshav Singh‚ from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US‚ said what he and his colleagues had observed my manipulating mitochondrial DNA was remarkable.

“This mouse model should provide an unprecedented opportunity for the development of preventive and therapeutic drug development strategies ... for the treatment of ageing-associated skin and hair pathology and other human diseases in which mitochondrial dysfunction plays a significant role‚” he said in the journal Cell Death & Disease.

From left‚ a control mouse; ageing-associated skin wrinkles and hair loss after two months of mitochondrial DNA depletion; the same mouse a month later‚ after mitochondrial DNA replication was resumed.
From left‚ a control mouse; ageing-associated skin wrinkles and hair loss after two months of mitochondrial DNA depletion; the same mouse a month later‚ after mitochondrial DNA replication was resumed.
Image: University of Alabama at Birmingham 

Singh’s team introduced a mutation into mice by adding an antiobotic‚ doxycycline‚ to their drinking water. The drug caused depletion of mitochondrial DNA by deactivating the enzyme that replicates the DNA.

Mitochondria are the tiny parts of cells which produce 90% of the chemical energy cells need to survive. Humans’ mitochondrial function declines during ageing‚ a change linked to age-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease‚ diabetes‚ neurological disorders and cancer.

Four weeks after taking the antibiotic‚ the mice displayed grey and thinning hair‚ hair loss‚ slowed movements and lethargy‚ changes reminiscent of natural ageing.

Wrinkled skin was seen after four to eight weeks‚ and females had more severe wrinkles than males.

Dramatically‚ the hair loss and wrinkled skin could be reversed by turning off the mutation‚ something Singh called “surprising”.

Little change was seen in other organs when the mutation was induced‚ suggesting an important role for mitochondria in skin compared to other tissues. 

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