Scientists have stopped the ageing process in an entire organ for the first time, a study released today says.
Published in today’s online edition of Nature Medicine, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York City also say the older organs function as well as they did when the host animal was younger.
The researchers, led by Associate Professor Ana Maria Cuervo, blocked the ageing process in mice livers by stopping the build-up of harmful proteins inside the organ’s cells.
As people age their cells become less efficient at getting rid of damaged protein resulting in a build-up of toxic material that is especially pronounced in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders.
The researchers say the findings suggest that therapies for boosting protein clearance might help stave off some of the declines in function that accompanies old age.
In experiments, livers in genetically modified mice 22 to 26 months old, the equivalent of octogenarians in human years, cleaned blood as efficiently as those in animals a quarter their age.
By contrast, the livers of normal mice in a control group began to fail.
The benefits of restoring the cleaning mechanisms found inside all cells could extend far beyond a single organ, says Cuervo.
“Our findings are particularly relevant for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” she says.