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The enzyme telomerase ensures an eternal youth? For the first time, researchers were able to initiate a kind of rejuvenation in a test setup. Critics doubt, however, that the results are also transferable to humans.
Can an enzyme ensure that the aging process in humans is slowed down? Scientists at Harvard University in the US have reported that they have investigated the effects of the enzyme called "telomerase". In the course of a study, the enzyme had a rejuvenating effect and could, for example, reactivate lost brain performance.
In an animal experiment, the researchers switched off the enzyme telomerase in rodents. The animals then aged prematurely. However, when the scientists initiated a reactivation of the named enzyme, an almost miraculous rejuvenation of the test animals occurred. But critics see numerous risks in the results. A high cancer risk with this so-called "anti-aging therapy" cannot be excluded.
The enzyme has been known since 1985. The enzyme was discovered in 1985 by the scientists Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider in eyelash animals. Shortly afterwards, this discovery quickly became the “star” of regenerative medicine. Pharmaceutical manufacturers in particular were soon delighted to be able to design a means that would stop the aging process in humans. So a real race for the best results started. Because if such an active ingredient were actually found to stop the aging process, billions of dollars in revenue would be virtually certain.
The newly published study undoubtedly found that the enzyme i.a. prevents the "caps" of the chromosomes from shortening after each cell division and the cells from dying. As people get older, the cells' ability to produce "telomerase" also decreases. However, it is still unclear whether the decrease in this ability is actually linked to the advancement of the aging process.
Loss of telomerase can also stop cancer cells
However, researchers are of the opinion that the decrease in enzyme formation creates a meaningful effect. Because cancer cells also use the telomerase enzyme. The assumption is that this effect reduces the formation of cancer cells. Many researchers are therefore warning against initiating anti-aging therapy based on the maintenance or artificial addition of the enzyme. Such a treatment could generate mass cancer tumors. In simple terms, telomerase can stop aging, but can cause cancer, according to some researchers.
Course of the study First, the researchers switched off the gene in the animal experiment in the first phase of life. The mice then showed rapid aging with the typical appearances. The rodents developed osteoporosis, became ill with type II diabetes and the performance of the brain decreased significantly. After this artificially induced process, the gene was reactivated for a month. As scientists reported in the study result, this not only stopped the aging process. The experimental animals underwent a real rejuvenating cure. They regained their ability to reproduce and the performance of the brain recovered. The mice could smell again and avoided avoiding certain smells like the younger animals. On the other hand, the development of cancer was not observed, according to researchers. The researchers conclude that the rejuvenation process started before tumors could form.
The structure of studies does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about people
Dr. Tom Kirkwood of the "Institute for Aging and Health" at the University of Newcastle was critical of the science magazine "Nature". In his opinion, the experimental setup was not suitable to draw conclusions about the aging process in humans. The experiment also does not reflect reality, since the gene was switched off in the study in order to reanimate it later. In humans, there would be no possibility of specifically activating telomerase or preventing loss in old age. (sb)
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