Many imaginary ideas of science fiction writers have been implemented into reality: the telephone, the submarine, the rocket, etc. Today another idea straight out of a science fiction novel became a reality. This time it happened in the sphere of genetic engineering — geneticists managed to find the mythical “source of youth”. Though precise aging mechanisms still haven’t been proven to work, scientists still managed to find out that the aging processes directly depends on the size of telomeres which are on the ends of chromosomes — the longer they are, the longer a person lives.
The director of BioViva USA Inc., Elizabeth Parrish, claims that her team has developed a new method that helps increase the length of telomeres effectively and safely. Bright Side supports new discoveries and that’s why we would like to share with you the details of this new breakthrough in the area of genetic therapy.
In 2016, the 45-year-old director of BioViva USA Inc., Elizabeth Parrish claimed that she had successfully passed a course of gene therapy against aging. The therapy included the elimination of 2 main effects of the aging process: the shortening of telomeres and the loss of muscle mass.
Telomeres are the areas of chromosomes that are responsible for the number of cell divisions before it is destroyed. The length of each person’s telomeres is individual: a person is born with the length of telomeres of 15,000-20,000 pairs of nucleotides and dies with the length of 5,000-7,000 pairs. Their length keeps decreasing due to a process called the Hayflick limit — it is the number of a cell’s divisions that approximately equals 50. After that, the aging process starts in cells. During the course of research, it was discovered that DNA can be restored with the help of the enzyme telomerase, which interacts with telomeres and “brings them back” to their initial length.
At the moment, the process of restoring telomeres is launched by a modified RNA, which holds the gene for reverse telomerase transcriptase (TERT). After the RNA gets introduced into the telomere, it increases the activity of telomerase for 1-2 days. Within this time, it keeps actively extending telomeres and after that, it breaks up. The cells, as a result, behave like “young” ones and start to divide many times more intensively than the cells of the control group.
Thanks to this method, it was possible to extend telomeres for more than 1,000 nucleotides, which equals several years of a human’s life. This process is safe for one’s health and doesn’t lead to unnecessary cell modifications and mutations because the immune system doesn’t have enough time to react to the RNA introduced to the body.
The laboratory, SpectraCell confirmed that the success of this therapy is possible. In 2015, before starting the therapy, Elizabeth’s blood was tested: the length of leucocytes telomeres was 6,710 pairs of nucleotides. In 2016, after the end of the therapy, Parrish’s blood was tested again and the length of leucocytes’ telomeres increased to 7,330 pairs. This means that the leucocytes in the blood of the subject became 10 years “younger”. Parrish had this procedure done in Colombia because such experiments are forbidden in the USA.
The results of the experiment were confirmed by 2 independent organizations: a Belgian non-profit organization, HEALES (Healthy Life Extension Company) and the British Biogerontology Research Foundation. The results haven’t yet been subjected to expert assessments.
The second goal of this therapy was aimed at the attempt to suppress the production of the myostatin protein: it inhibits the growth and differentiation of muscle tissue. This protein is formed in muscles and is released into the blood afterward. A human’s myostatin is coded in the MSTN gene. Research held on animals showed that the blocking of the myostatin’s action leads to a significant increase of a dry muscle mass with the almost full absence of fat tissue.
Elizabeth herself says, “Today’s telomeres ’extending’ therapy offers only a changing lifestyle to a patient: refusal from meat, doing sports, avoiding stressful situations. I find this ineffective. While the achievements in the sphere of biotechnology are the best solution and if the results of the experiment held on me are precise, it means that we have made a huge breakthrough in science.”
This therapy will allow holding experiments for researching medical drugs and disease modeling more quickly and efficiently. In perspective, it can be used for extending the lifespan.
Perhaps Elizabeth Parrish has become a pioneer in the field of gene therapy connected with aging and even more, a pioneer who discovered the way to immortality.
What do you think? Are we close to a scientific breakthrough or is it just another PR campaign? Please share your opinion with us in the comments!