A gene discovered in centenarians appears to reverse the biological age of the heart by ten years. Has the anti-aging gene been found? The scientists call their discovery a “breakthrough” that holds great potential for heart failure patients.
Researchers from the UK Heart Foundation think that certain genes protect against the aging of the heart. In a new study, they show that one of these healthy mutated genes, previously found to occur mainly in centenarians, can protect cells.
The team found that a single administration of this mutated anti-aging gene slows the decline of heart function in middle-aged mice. More impressively, the gene, once administered to elderly mice whose hearts show the same changes as older humans, turns back the heart’s biological clock by a human equivalent of more than a decade.
“The function of the heart and blood vessels decreases as we age,” says Paolo Madeddu of the University of Bristol. “The speed at which these changes occur varies from person to person. Smoking, alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle speed up the aging clock, while healthy eating and exercise actually slow down the aging clock of the heart,” he says.
“In addition, good genes, which people have inherited from their parents, can help to stay young and healthy. Genes are strings of letters that code for proteins. By chance, some of those letters can mutate. Often those mutations are insignificant, but in some cases they can make the gene function worse or better. That is the case with the mutated anti-aging gene that we have studied here on human cells and older mice.”
Centenarians pass on their good genes to their children, but the study has now shown for the first time that a healthy gene from a centenarian could be deployed (via gene therapy) to random other people. They would then experience the same health benefits.
The researchers hope to be able to start clinical studies on heart patients soon.