Scientists close to unlocking the secret of eternal youth

The secrets of eternal youth are being unlocked by scientists. Experiments show that an enzyme called telomerase could be the key ingredient in an 'elixir of life'. Mice engineered to have extra-high levels of telomerase were bred with cancer-resistant creature with astonishing results.The pups, bred by Spain's National Cancer Institute, lived up to 50 per cent longer the normal. They also had less fat, had better co-ordination and were better at processing sugar, this week's New Scientist reports.

Researcher Maria Blasco said: 'You can delay the ageing of mice and increase their lifespan.' She said she was optimistic the approach could one day be used to allow people to live longer, because the enzyme was capable of turning 'a normal, mortal cell into an immortal cell'.

Her optimism is supported by US experiments which found that boosting telomerase levels in white blood cells makes them better at fighting disease. Telomerase is extracted from the Astragalus plant, often used in Chinese medicines with no known adverse effects.

It protects tiny bundles of DNA at the end of our chromosomes that get shorter and shorter as our cells divide. Eventually, they get so short that the cells die. Keeping levels of telomerase high could keep ageing at bay. However, some safety concerns remain, because cancer cells produce telomerase at higher than normal rates.
'With anything that boosts telomerase, you may have unwanted cell growth like in cancers,' immunologist Arne Akbar from University College, London said.

But Dr Blasco said cancer drugs could be used to offset the negative affects.

New Scientist added: 'While an elixir of life in people remains a long way off, the prospect of boosting telomerase to fight disease, including age-related diseases, may be much closer.'
Credits: Dailymail.

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