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May 15, 2012

Gene Therapy Successfully Extends Mouse Lifespan Up to 24% With Single Treatment





 Longevity
A new study consisting of inducing cells to express telomerase, the enzyme which -- metaphorically -- slows down the biological clock -- was successful. The research provides a "proof-of-principle" that this "feasible and safe" approach can effectively "improve health span."
Anumber of studies have shown that it is possible to lengthen the average life of individuals of many species, including mammals, by acting on specific genes.To date, this has meant altering the animals' genes permanently from the embryonic stage -- an approach impracticable in humans.

Now researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), led by its director María Blasco, have demonstrated that the mouse lifespan can be extended by the application in adult life of a single treatment acting directly on the animal's genes. They have done so using gene therapy, a strategy never before employed to combat aging. The breakthrough therapy has been found to be safe and effective in mice.

The results were recently published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine. The CNIO team, in collaboration with Eduard Ayuso and Fátima Bosch of the Centre of Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), treated adult (one-­year-­old) and aged (two-year-­‐old) mice, with the gene therapy delivering a "rejuvenating" effect in both cases, according to the authors.

Study Authors: Maria A. Blasco and Bruno M. Bernardes de Jesús
Mice treated at the age of one lived longer by 24% on average, and those treated at the age of two, by 13%. The therapy, furthermore, produced an appreciable improvement in the animals' health, delaying the onset of age-­‐related diseases -- like osteoporosis and insulin resistance -- and achieving improved readings on aging indicators like neuromuscular coordination.

Proponents of extending human lifespan, such as Aubrey de Grey have long been predicting that such medical technologies would be effective.

The gene therapy consisted of treating the animals with a DNA-­modified virus, the viral genes having been replaced by those of the telomerase enzyme, with a key role in aging. Telomerase repairs the extreme ends or tips of chromosomes, known as telomeres, and in doing so slows the cell's and therefore the body's biological clock. When the animal is infected, the virus acts as a vehicle depositing the telomerase gene in the cells.

This study "shows that it is possible to develop a telomerase-­based anti-­aging gene therapy without increasing the incidence of cancer," the authors affirm. "Aged organisms accumulate damage in their DNA due to telomere shortening, [this study] finds that a gene therapy based on telomerase production can repair or delay this kind of damage," they add.

As Blasco says, "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."

With regard to the therapy under testing, Bosch explains: "Because the vector we use expresses the target gene (telomerase) over a long period, we were able to apply a single treatment. This might be the only practical solution for an anti-­‐aging therapy, since other strategies would require the drug to be administered over the patient's lifetime, multiplying the risk of adverse effects."


SOURCE  Science Daily

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