No matter how much we want to deny it, aging is inevitable. Aging is a natural process of functional deterioration of the human body. It is associated with various fatal illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. Due to this very reason, scientists around the world have been doing various researches to find out the ways to slow down, stop, or even reverse the process of aging.
There are many options in the anti-aging industry that promise a young and rejuvenated look such as injections, pills, and lotions. But nowadays, another cutting edge technology has been stealing the limelight and it is called hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
What is Hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment in which the patient breathes in pure oxygen in air pressure levels much higher than average in a pressurized chamber. The goal is to fill the blood with enough oxygen to repair tissues and restore normal body function. It is used to treat a variety of conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning, pressure sores, severe infections, etc.
Now, a brand new study has shown that it has a significant role in slowing down and reversing the aging process too.
Modern research on Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
A pioneering study conducted at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in collaboration with the Shamir Medical Center in Israel has demonstrated that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can stop and reverse the aforesaid biological cellular process which causes aging.
Molecular basis of aging
The two major hallmarks of aging are telomere length shortening and cellular senescence. Telomeres are the protective segments present at both ends of human chromosomes. They gradually become shorter with growing age.
When the telomeres become critically short, the cells can not replicate further which leads to the accumulation of malfunctioning and old cells known as senescent cells. The accumulation of such senescent cells in the body contributes to aging.
More about the study
The study was led by Professor Shai Efrati from the Sackler School of Medicine who is also the founder and director of the Sagol Center of Hyperbaric Medicine at the Shamir Medical Center and Dr. Amir Hadanny, a researcher from the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine.
In the study, 35 healthy independent adults, aged 64 or more were exposed to a series of 60 hyperbaric sessions in high-pressure oxygen chambers five times a week over three months. Their blood samples were collected, during and at the end of the treatment, sessions as well as sometime later after the treatments ended. Then their immune cells in the blood were analyzed and the differences were compared.
After comparing the results, the researchers found that after the completion of hyperbaric oxygen treatment, there was up to a lengthening of 38% of the telomeres of various types of immune cells, and a decrease of up to 37% in the presence of old cells in the overall cell population. In layman’s terms, the blood cells of the participants were getting younger.
“For many years our team has been engaged in hyperbaric research and therapy — treatment modalities based on protocols of exposure to high-pressure oxygen at various concentrations inside a pressure chamber,” Professor Efrati said. “Our achievements in the past included the improvement of brain functions damaged by age, stroke, or brain injury.”
“Until now, only methods shown to inhibit telomere shortening included exercise and diet changes. But in our study, treatment with HBOT for mere three months was able to elongate telomeres at rates far beyond any intervention or lifestyle modification methods could achieve” Hadanny said. “With this pioneering study, we have opened a door for further research on the impact of HBOT on the body cells to target aging as a reversible disease”, professor Efrati added.
The paper was published in the journal Aging on November 18.
Types of hyperbaric oxygen chambers
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy uses 2 types of chambers:
1. Mono place chamber: It is a long tube and resembles an MRI machine. It is meant for one person. The patient enters the chamber which is then slowly pressurized with 100% oxygen. It is relatively cheap compared to a multi-place chamber. It is easier to install and quite portable.
2. Multi-place chamber: This chamber is a room that can accommodate two or more persons. The treatment is similar to the mono place chamber. The only difference is that people breathe pure oxygen through masks or hoods. It is harder to install and more expensive than a mono place chamber.
Cost of HBOT
The cost of hyperbaric oxygen therapy depends on various factors such as insurance plan, disease the patient is suffering from, duration of treatment needed, the company providing the chamber, etc. However, with more and more researchers coming out in support of this non-invasive and painless therapy, it is sure that it will become a more and more cost-effective option in the future, especially in anti-aging clinics.
Future of HBOT
For a long time, oxygen therapy and hyperbaric medicine have been used to speed up the healing in conditions such as athletic injuries, carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, stubborn wounds, and infections in which tissues are starved for oxygen.
And now, since the study from Israel has proved the efficacy of this noninvasive and painless treatment in slowing down the process of aging by increasing telomeres length and decreasing the number of senescent cells, we can rest assured that it will emerge as a great option in anti-aging clinics.
Furthermore, with the increasing availability of portable chambers, the number of people using them at home may also increase shortly.
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