Ultrasound considered harmless has been used in medicine for decades as therapy for a wide range of ailments.
It is now possible to give body cells a second shot at youth?
US-based scientists have discovered that by exposing cells to low-frequency sound waves, it is possible to restart cell division and thus prevent some of the signs of aging.
Ultrasound has a beneficial effect on fitness and memory
This process could be the ultimate cure for aging: after a certain number of divisions, the cells in our body stop dividing and become senescent. Some of them also secrete toxins that cause inflammation, which has been linked to all sorts of diseases, from arthritis to Alzheimer’s.
Tests on elderly mice showed that when they were exposed to low doses of ultrasound, they walked further and faster on a treadmill.
Another research team, this time from Australia, also found that mice given higher frequency ultrasound showed improvements in memory. Another study is already underway to assess its effect on people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Ultrasound stimulates cell division
Treatment with low-frequency waves on a human also showed encouraging results: while cells normally start to wear out after about 15 divisions, with weak ultrasound waves they reached 24 without showing signs of abnormality.
The procedure even cured one person’s hunched back: ‘We treated him twice with ultrasound and he started behaving normally again. I don’t think the term ‘rejuvenation’ is too strong,” says lead author Professor Michael Sheetz of the University of Texas.
One possible biological explanation for why this treatment seems to work is that ultrasound physically deforms cells, producing effects similar to exercise, the authors write. It may also reactivate internal waste systems that cease to function as cells age.
These findings suggest that it is possible to delay the damaging effects of aging, particularly on physical fitness and frailty, until the age of 70 or 80.