While some persons desire and long for old age, others wish they could do without aging. As people age, their cells age too. The hair of old people begins naturally to turn white, they are not able to perform with vigor their usual activities. As the years go by, the effect becomes more pronounced and some persons get to the stage where they cannot carry out their daily activities by themselves. Hence, they have to depend on others. Some diseases are commoner in the aged like dementia, and, osteoarthritis among others. Hence, various researches to find out anti-aging options.
It has been noted that individual cells have a molecular clock in them that keeps a record of the passage of time. So, this brings the whole body under the effect of aging. It has also been reported that isolated cells from older people and animals have some molecules found along with their DNA that are different from those found in younger people or animals. These molecules are called epigenetic markers. However, research has shown that the addition of some molecules can cause a resetting of these markers to their original pattern, thereby reversing aging. These molecules are called Yamanaka factors. They are transcription factors that can cause somatic cells to be reprogrammed into a pluripotent embryonic-like state, thereby, reducing the effect of aging.
Yamanaka factors you say
Many researchers have undertaken the task of finding out the effect of Yamanaka factors on aging. Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte and his research group in 2016 discovered that they could use some reprogramming molecules like Sox2, Oct4, cMyc, and KIf4 which are the Yamanaka factors, to counter aging signs, and to increase the lifespan of mice which had a disease that causes premature aging. In the research, a group of mice received Yamanaka factors regularly, from their 15th months of age to their 22nd month of age, which is equivalent to 50 to 70 years in humans. Another mice group received Yamanaka factors from 12 months to 22 months regularly. This age is somewhere between 35 through 70 years in humans. Another group of mice, 25 months of age, was treated for just one month, with the 25 months approximating 80 years of human age. The factors were transduced into the somatic cells of rats, followed by culture, to produce induced pluripotent cells which have self-renewal ability.
It was discovered that the animals that received the treatment had cell patterns resembling those of younger animals. These animals had their skin cells less likely to form permanent scars and had greater regeneration ability when injured. This is in contrast to older animals that usually have more scarring and less regeneration ability when injured. Also, normal age-related changes did not occur in metabolic molecules in the blood of treated animals, and no cancers, neurological changes, or blood cell alterations were noticed in the treated animals too.
The effect of the Yamanaka factors was more pronounced on the animals treated for longer periods like 7 months or 10 months. They were observed to have more youthfulness as opposed to the animals treated for just one month. Hence, it can be suggested that the treatment can reverse aging, not just stop it. In another trial by Jean-Marc Lemaitre and his colleagues using Yamanaka factors and two other anti-aging factors on fibroblast cells from normal and healthy old people, it was noted that some aspects of aging were reversed by reprogramming of cells.
Some other factors have been noted to slow down aging and improve quality of life. These include medications like rapamycin, metformin, supplements like vitamin C and curcumin, lifestyle like exercise, and quitting smoking. However, so far, a permanent cure for aging is yet to be found. Maybe, the Yamanaka factors are the silver bullets we’ve all been waiting for.
Old age is a blessing that still has unpleasant sides to it. Hence, various studies to discover ways of reversing these unpleasant effects have been carried out. The discovery of Yamanaka factors and their effects on cells is a welcome development.
With further research, a permanent solution to problems associated with aging can be discovered, which will be a relief to humanity.
The discovery in this study is a stepping stone to discovering ways to prevent aging signs and improve the quality of life of the aged. An end to aging might happen sooner than we expect.