Reversing the Clock
People have fantasized over the concept of eternal youth since the beginning of society, and despite the innumerable attempts made throughout time, many of which have occurred recently through the development of science, it seemed like an impossible goal. At least that is until now, where a group of researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggest that they have found an elixir of youth. The group led by Keshav Singh, Ph.D., was able to reverse wrinkles and restore hair growth in mice. At this point, their results are fascinating, but even the group is unsure of the potential of their findings. They were able to do so after identifying a genetic mutation that was linked to wrinkled skin and hair loss; addressing the mutation reversed these effects.
Their research paper, titled “Reversing wrinkled skin and hair loss in mice by restoring mitochondrial function” in the journal, Cell Death and Disease, The original purpose of the study was to identify a method in which cancer patients could re-grow their hair following chemotherapy; interestingly, the results they demonstrated could be used to help anyone.
Singh based the hypothesis and methodology of the study on the declining function of mitochondria that occurs naturally due to aging. He understood that restoring this function could theoretically produce the desired results, and he did so by utilizing a mouse model. The group used the mouse model to represent wrinkles and hair loss that was resulting from this decline in mitochondrial function.
So how did they exactly create these mice? They induced a mutation which led to mitochondrial changes. They did so by utilizing doxycycline to the food and water of the mice; this caused a depletion of mitochondrial DNA due to enzyme inactivity. These changes led to the clinical symptomatology of wrinkled skin and visible hair loss that rapidly progressed over the course of a few weeks. The researchers then reversed the mutation, and the results they found were nothing short of miraculous. The mice’s skin returned to its previously smooth condition, and similarly, their fur was restored not only in length but also in thickness.
These results not only have tremendous potential, but there are also innumerable implications. Yet, Singh is aware that there is much work left to be done before it can be utilized in clinical research and furthermore be applied to help the general public. “We have discovered that mitochondria, which are the powerhouse of the cell, are the reversible regular of wrinkles and hair loss… The potential is huge as everyone develops wrinkles and most of us lose hair.” He and his group hope to continue the trajectory of this research to develop a drug that can mimic these effects,
As previously mentioned, there are multiple steps that must be taken before this research can properly be transferred for use in humans. There is no method for us to mimic the genetic alteration method, therefore, it is necessary to find a chemical means to mirror this method in humans. He estimates that finding and developing a drug that can do this will take around 3-4 years.
Although the researchers focused on skin and hair loss, Singh states that mitochondrial dysfunction is also related to other age-related conditions and diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological disorders, and even cancer. If properly analyzed, the findings of this study can be utilized to tackle these various diseases, but Singh is reluctant to make claims that are exaggerated and currently uncertain, “We can only say that we may be able to regenerate healthy skin and hair.”
Despite the current limitations, it is safe to say that this research might have found a large clue in the quest of youth and anti-aging.