When we discuss aging and longevity, we tend to focus on how to prevent age-related decline and disease, or how to manage it if it does occur. There’s a general acceptance that, in most circumstances, once your cells start to degenerate, you can’t just reverse the effects… or can you? Perhaps that deterioration isn’t the end of the road after all (https://longevity.technology/news/is-the-reversal-of-cellular-aging-possible-through-chemical-means/).
Many of the problems we associate with aging start in our cells. Like most things, they can wear out over time, becoming damaged and dysfunctional; we sometimes refer to these cells as “senescent”. This leads to other problems in the body’s processes. Other issues seen in the cells and associated with aging include changes in genomic expression stemming from a loss of epigenetic information, dysfunctions in the mitochondria, and a shortening of telomeres.
There has been research into ways that aging cells can be rejuvenated or reprogrammed, such as by turning them into pluripotent stem cells, but if these processes can be made to work, it would be both risky and expensive. New genetic material, both RNA and DNA, would have to be introduced into the tissue through either lipid nanoparticles or adeno-associated viral methods.
What scientists have been trying to do is find a chemical alternative to these complicated procedures. To do so, they used something called a quantitative nucleocytoplasmic compartmentalization assay (NCC) to identify differently aged cells and evaluate possible chemical combinations that could reverse their deterioration. Around 80 cocktails of chemicals were originally tested and were eventually narrowed down to six that seemed particularly effective.
Trials were carried out where donating and receiving participants spanned a range of ages and medical conditions. Responses varied depending on the degree of aging and/or senescence in cells. Results suggested that close to half of the genes that were damaged by senescence could return to their previous levels of expression. It’s a method called epigenetic programming of old cell health (EPOCH).
More questions remain to be answered about this new chemical process, such as how long the effects will last after one treatment, but if this technique can be combined with other modern approaches, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, it could lead to substantial progress in trying to restore health across the whole body, even after it has been significantly damaged by the process of aging, thereby improving longevity.