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Aging, the slow deterioration of function over time, is an inevitable fact of the human condition. When cells divide and multiply in our body, they gradually decline, and as a result our mental and physical health deteriorates..
But there may be a way not only to delay this cellular degeneration, but also to reverse it, according to a study published November 18 in the Journal of Aging.. One day, this could help prevent age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes and dementia.
The study found that a specific oxygen therapy appears to improve two of the main markers of biological aging. After the treatment, the participants obtained a significant increase in the length of their telomeres, a compound in chromosomes that stabilizes DNA when cells divide.. .
As we age, telomeres shorten – a phenomenon associated with an increased risk of age-related diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes..
The researchers also noted a significant decrease in senile cells, which has been linked to age-related diseases.
These results are a potential breakthrough in anti-aging research, according to Dr.. Shai Efrati, the lead investigator on the study who was the pioneer of the research into this form of therapy at Tel Aviv University.
Efrati told Insider: « For the first time in humans, we can see that we are not only slowing down decline, but the other way around – we can reverse it. ». “We see elongation [of telomeres] by more than 20%, which was considered impossible in humans.
An experimental treatment is promising, but it is expensive and time consuming. More research is needed to find out how telomere prolongation might affect chronic disease and longevity and what side effects might occur in the long term..
In the study, researchers from Shamir Medical Center and Tel Aviv University treated 30 healthy adults over the age of 65 with a type of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.. Five days a week for three months, participants spent 90 minutes inside a pressure room, breathing 100% oxygen from a mask, with five-minute breaks at regular intervals to inhale the natural air..
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy was previously used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, including carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness. For this reason, it is useful for divers and astronauts who encounter hostile environmental conditions such as extreme pressure in the depths of the ocean or outer space..
However, the treatment used in this study differs from what you might find in clinics . Every 20 minutes, participants remove the oxygen mask, causing a rapid drop in normal oxygen levels. The body interprets this sudden change as a sudden lack of oxygen, which leads to a chain reaction.
“There is a biological chain that starts the formation of new tissue, and most importantly we see it at the cellular level, it activates telomeres,” said Efrati.
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Efrati’s original « a-ha moment » was the publication of the NASA study of twins. The study found that the twin that went into space returned with longer telomeres, while the twin that remained on Earth experienced a natural shortening of telomeres over time..
“When I saw that, I opened a bottle of champagne. « Everyone looked at me as crazy, » said Efrati.. « But this means that when we change environmental conditions, it can change basic biology and increase telomere length, which is the holy grail of aging..
Efrati’s previous work on hyperbaric oxygen therapy tested whether it could help treat cognitive problems and traumatic brain injuries. The Washington Post reported that other researchers have questioned his claims, citing a lack of data on these experimental uses for the treatment.. .
Likewise, the claims in his recent study that aging is reversible almost seem too good to be true..
“If it were magic, it would not take us 20 years to get to where we are. I hope my next research is done by magic so that it happens immediately. ». “This is not magic, it is hard work.
It is not clear how telomere lengthening might affect aging, chronic disease and longer life, because it has not happened before..
But research shows we can measure, and possibly control, this important aging marker.
« Once we can measure the telomeres, once we see the elongation, hopefully it’s just like blood pressure. ». « You can measure it and treat it, » said Afrati..
With further research, the goal is to treat aging as a preventable disease, and ward off related diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and cognitive decline.. Efrati hopes to study the treatment in a larger population that includes people at high risk of contracting these diseases or in the early stages of these diseases..
« We need to see the long-term effects, and see if we can tailor treatment to individuals to improve the protocol, » he said..
Crystal Cox / Business Insider
Although the treatment is promising, these early results indicate that it is not a panacea for all age-related health problems..
Factors such as diet, exercise and lifestyle still play an important role in how we age. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, for example, has been shown to prevent cellular degeneration, while unhealthy habits such as poor eating, sedation and smoking seem to accelerate aging..
As a result, Efrati said anyone could theoretically receive treatment, but would continue to see their health deteriorate if the negative factors outweighed the positive ones..
It’s not likely that Efrati’s treatment will be available to the public anytime soon, as it requires highly specialized equipment, lots of resources, and a significant time commitment.
Efrati said: « Every time we start something new, it starts with a small group of people who can handle it. ». . “The type of treatment we offer is not affordable and available to everyone.
Other laboratories are already working to replicate its treatment, enhancing our understanding of its potential and taking it a step closer to widespread use.. But he said it was not a process that could be expedited.
“We are dealing with human biology and human health. It is very important that we do it in an appropriate way, with the required quality and without any shortcuts, ”said Efrati.
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Oxygen Therapy, Hyperbaric Medicine, Aging, Aging, Telomere
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