Scientists in the Chinese capital, Beijing, have developed a new gene therapy that can neutralize some of the effects of aging in mice and extend their life, results that may one day contribute to a similar treatment for humans.
The method, detailed in research published in the Journal of Science Translation Medicine, involves disrupting a gene called Cat7 that scientists have discovered is a major contributor to cell aging.
Project co-supervisor Professor Zhu Jing, 40, who specializes in geriatrics and regenerative medicine from the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the specific treatment they used and the results were the first of their kind in the world.
“After a period of six to eight months, these mice show a general improvement in appearance, grip strength, and most importantly, an extension of their lifespan by about 25 percent,” she added.
The team of biologists at the Chinese Academy has used a method to screen thousands of genes for those that are particularly powerful drivers of cellular aging, the term used to describe cellular aging.
Professor Chu said they identified 100 genes out of about 10,000 and Cat 7 was the most effective in contributing to aging in cells.
This gene is one of tens of thousands of genes found in mammalian cells. The researchers inhibited it in the livers of mice using a method called the slow viral vector.
However, the method is still far from ready for human trials, according to Zhou.
“In the end, we hope that we can find a way to delay aging, even a very small percentage … in the future,” she added.