The quest for the real-life equivalent to the ‘fountain of youth’ has led to an incredible anti-aging market, projected to be worth $191.7 billion by 2019. People seek out anti-wrinkle products, hair coloring, hair restoration treatments and more, all with the purpose of slowing, reversing or hiding the signs of aging. Not only does aging create a cosmetic concern, but it also increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer.
In a new study, a team of researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine monitored a number of mice, focusing on the aging process, and the changes within the brain responsible for these effects in the body. What they discovered may open the door for experts to slow the signs of aging and extend the lifespan of their subjects.
Monitoring healthy mice, the team discovered that the mice lived, on average, for 2 years. At approximately 11 months of age, the researchers noticed that there was a decrease in a specific group of neural stem cells in the brain, with these cells completing disappearing by the age of 22. The team also noted that the loss of stem cells was closely correlated with changes in the body including a decline in memory, sociability, athletic performance, muscle endurance and learning.
The area of the brain they were focusing on was the hypothalamus, the area responsible for the control of aging in the body. It is also the part of the brain responsible for regulating hunger, arousal, body temperature and sleep.
In order to determine whether the decreasing number of stem cells located in the hypothalamus was responsible for the signs of aging the team then began to delete the cells using a virus engineered to target and kill the stem cells when exposed to the drug Ganciclovir. By putting this process into effect at 15 months old the team was able to cause premature aging in their test subjects. Conversely, by introducing healthy stem cells into the brain of the mice, reducing the overall loss of stem cells, the team was able to slow the aging process.
The study’s senior author Dongsheng Cai, MD, PhD, professor of molecular pharmacology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine explained, “Our research shows that the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells naturally declines over the life of the animal, and this decline accelerates aging. But we also found that the effects of this loss are not irreversible. By replenishing these stem cells or the molecules they produce, it’s possible to slow and even reverse various aspects of aging throughout the body.”
While there is still a lot of research necessary to fully understand and make use of this information, it is showing incredible promise. The team may have discovered the real fountain of youth!