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Gene therapy may extend life: Study

Provided by: QMI
Written by: QMI Agency
May. 15, 2012

The therapy could be used in anti-aging therapy in humans down the road, but the researchers say in the short term it could possibly be used to treat health problems such as tissue-related ailments. (Shutterstock)


"Rejuvenating" effect on mice

Researchers in Spain may have discovered the secret to a longer life, a new study says.

Scientists at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid have successfully and safely extended the lifespan of mice by an average of 24% with a single gene therapy treatment.

The remedy had a "rejuvenating" effect on one- and two-year-old mice, the authors say in the study published Tuesday in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

On average, the treated younger mice lived longer by 24%, while the older mice lived 13% longer.

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The treatment appeared to do more than just turn back the hand of time, the study says it also improved health by delaying age-related diseases such as osteoporosis and insulin resistance.

"Aging is not currently regarded as a disease, but researchers tend increasingly to view it as the common origin of conditions like insulin resistance or cardiovascular disease, whose incidence rises with age. In treating cell aging, we could prevent these diseases," cancer research director Maria Blasco said in a statement.

Gene therapy hasn't been used before for anti-aging. The researchers treated the animals with a DNA-modified virus infused with telomerase enzymes to act as a vehicle to spread the time-erasing effects to the cells. The enzymes repair chromosomes, known as telemeres, and slow the body's biological clock.

Researchers, with the help of the Centre of Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, say they've tested the therapy without increasing cancer development, but a risk of developing tumours has been a setback in the investigation of telomerase's anti-aging therapies.

The therapy could be used in anti-aging therapy in humans down the road, but the researchers say in the short term it could possibly be used to treat health problems such as tissue-related ailments like pulmonary fibrosis (a chronic disease that causes scarring in the lungs).

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