Since one of the themes in our international mystery thriller Rabbit in the Moon is finding the secret of longevity, we’re always on the lookout for what’s new in longevity research.
In a study published online Jan. 31 in the journal Cell Reports,biologists reported a discovery about the aging process in mice might one day help efforts to develop treatments for age-related diseases in humans. The authors say they were able to turn back the “molecular clock” in old mice by placing a “longevity” gene called SIRT3 into their blood stem cells.
This gene belongs to a class of proteins called sirtuins, which are known to regulate aging.
When the gene was inserted into the blood stem cells of old mice, the formation of new blood cells was increased.
Principal investigator Danica Chen, an assistant professor of nutritional science and toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley says that this is evidence of a reversal in the age-related decline in the old stem cells’ function.
The finding “opens the door to potential treatments for age-related degenerative diseases,” Chen said.
When we wrote our novel we were aware that researchers have been searching for the secret of longevity for decades. Although our story supposes that someone in China in 1989 had found the key to doubling man’s lifespan, as far as we know that was pure fiction.
One of the obstacles for any scientist to succeed in this quest has been the understanding of the aging process. Once assumed to be a purely random and uncontrolled process, it is now believed to be highly regulated and possibly even open to manipulation.
“Studies have already shown that even a single gene mutation can lead to lifespan extension,” Chen said. “The question is whether we can understand the process well enough so that we can actually develop a molecular fountain of youth. Can we actually reverse aging? This is something we’re hoping to understand and accomplish.”
So stay tuned. Scientists may find the secret yet!