Telomerase Gene Therapy Extends Mouse Lifespans

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posted on June 05th, 2012

Dear Future Centenarian,

Another contribution to Longevity News Digest from Reason:

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2012/05/telomerase-gene-therapy-extends-life-eliminates-cancer-in-adult-mice.php

Researchers have demonstrated a genetic alteration previously shown to extend life in mice can be packaged into a gene therapy to extend life.

A few years ago, a Spanish research team created transgenic mice that lived significantly longer than normal by combining increased p53 with increased telomerase.

p53 is a cancer suppressor that under usual circumstances reduces the ability of stem cells to replace worn cells in aging tissue. Less cell proliferation means a lower chance of cancer over time, but also faster aging as the tissues of the body wear and fail more readily.

More telomerase, on the other hand, achieves the opposite end: dynamic, longer lasting cells that also produce way more cancers in the course of their more energetic operations. This, in any case, is the consensus view of how these elements work in the biochemistry of mammals.

The researchers recently published results for the next stage of their research program: taking the modifications that had been transgenic to date and instead applying them as gene therapies to adult mice. This is a step on the road to building some form of beneficial medical technology for humans.

Mice treated at the age of one lived 24% longer on average, and those treated at the age of two, by 13%. Furthermore, the therapy produced an appreciable improvement in the animals' health, delaying the onset of age-related diseases - like osteoporosis and insulin resistance - and achieving improved readings on aging indicators like neuromuscular coordination.

The gene therapy utilized consisted of treating the animals with a DNA-modified virus, the viral genes having been replaced by those of the telomerase enzyme, with a key role in aging.

As I discussed in previous issues, telomerase repairs the extremes of chromosomes, known as telomeres, and in doing so, slows the cell's, and therefore the body's biological clock. When the animal is infected, the virus acts as a vehicle depositing the telomerase gene in the cells.

In 2007, [the researchers] proved that it was feasible to prolong the lives of transgenic mice, whose genome had been permanently altered at the embryonic stage, by causing their cells to express telomerase, and also, extra copies of cancer-resistant genes.

These animals live 40% longer than is normal and do not develop cancer. The mice subjected to the gene therapy now under test are likewise free of cancer.

Researchers believe this is because the therapy begins when the animals are adults. So they do not have time to accumulate sufficient number of aberrant divisions for tumors to appear.

More Life,
David Kekich
____________________________

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