Telomerase Gene Therapy Extends Mouse Lifespan by 24%

November 30, 2012

Biology

mouse-pushing-wheel

Inducing cells to express telomerase, the enzyme which is supposed to slow down the metabolic clock, has enabled researchers boost the lifespan of mouse by 24% with a single treatment.

The scientists published their findings in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine. The gene therapy acts on specific genes and is applied in adult life, not from the embryonic stage. Researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO) have demonstrated that the mouse lifespan can be extended by the application of one treatment acting directly on the animal’s genes in adult life. The therapy has been found to be safe and effective in mice.

Adult and aged mice were treated with the gene therapy, delivering a rejuvenating effect. On average, the mice lived 24% longer. The older mice lived 13% longer. The therapy produces an appreciable improvement on the animal’s health and delayed the onset of age-related diseases.

The genes were treated with a DNA-modified virus. The viral genes were replaced by those of the telomerase enzyme, which plays a key role in aging. Telomerase repairs the extreme ends of chromosomes, and slows the cells and therefore the body’s biological clock.

There is a potential to develop a telomerase-based anti-aging gene therapy that won’t increase the risk of cancer. Telomeres are the caps that protect the end of chromosomes, but each time the cell divides, the telomeres get shorter until they lose all functionality. The cell then stops dividing or dies. Telomerase prevents telomeres from shortening or even rebuilding them.

In most cells, telomerase is only active before birth. The cells of adult organisms contain no telomerase. There are some exceptions such as adult stem cells and cancer cells, which divide limitlessly and could be immortal.

The risk of cancer tumor promotion is a risk that has set back telomerase-based anti-aging therapies. The kind of virus employed to carry the telomerase gene to the cells is very important. The viruses used is in this study have been successfully used in gene therapy treatment of hemophilia and eye disease. They are non-replicating viruses derived from others that are non-pathogenic in humans.

[via Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncologicas (CNIO), PDF Document]

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7 Responses to “Telomerase Gene Therapy Extends Mouse Lifespan by 24%”

  1. JoeQW Says:

    Are you are referring a study done by David Kipling in 1997, where they tested 1 and 2-year old mice and they showed life-span increase or 24% and 13% respectively?
    To me, it’s too much of stretch between humans and mice. There is certainly a potential to develop a telomerase-based anti-aging therapy, but so far all the products fall short on this matter. Most of them are overpriced and provide no value other then a positive placebo effect. I’ve tried Syn-RG telomerase supplement and all I got was a slight headache. Very disappointing because I was hoping to find an affordable telomerase product that actually works but I guess I have to wait, or spend more money to buy a pricier kind.

    Reply

    • Staff Says:

      Here is the title, authors, and abstract from the study. If you click on the “PDF Document” link above, you can see a copy of the study. Thanks-
      “Telomerase gene therapy in adult and old mice delays aging and increases longevity without increasing cancer”
      Bruno Bernardes de Jesus, Elsa Vera, Kerstin Schneeberger, Agueda M. Tejera, Eduard Ayuso, Fatima Bosch, Maria A. Blasco,
      Abstract
      A major goal in aging research is to improve health during aging. In the case of mice, genetic manipulations that shorten or lengthen telomeres result, respectively, in decreased or increased longevity. Based on this, we have tested the effects of a telomerase gene therapy in adult (1 year of age) and old (2 years of age) mice. Treatment of 1- and 2-year old mice with an adeno associated virus (AAV) of wide tropism expressing mouse TERT had remarkable beneficial effects on health and fitness, including insulin sensitivity, osteoporosis, neuromuscular coordination and several molecular biomarkers of aging. Importantly, telomerase-treated mice did not develop more cancer than their control littermates, suggesting that the known tumorigenic activity of telomerase is severely decreased when expressed in adult or old organisms using AAV vectors. Finally, telomerase-treated mice, both at 1-year and at 2-year of age, had an increase in median lifespan of 24 and 13%, respectively. These beneficial effects were not observed with a catalytically inactive TERT, demonstrating that they require telomerase activity. Together, these results constitute a proof-of-principle of a role of TERT in delaying physiological aging and extending longevity in normal mice through a telomerase-based treatment, and demonstrate the feasibility of anti-aging gene therapy.

      Reply

  2. JoeQW Says:

    Ok, thanks.
    I was referring to this:
    European Journal of Cancer. Kipling, D. (1997) Apr;33(5):792-800.
    Telomere structure and telomerase expression during mouse development and tumorigenesis.

    It’s interesting how they come to the same conclusions 15 years later.

    Reply

  3. Jordi Says:

    They make zero mention of the eating habits of these mice.

    That makes the paper pretty useless. If these mice were eating standard mouse chow, then they start out with a longevity disadvantage because that stuff is plain unhealthy.

    Maybe the therapy made the mice naturally restrict calories, thus increasing life-span ?
    Would it work for mice eating a natural mouse diet and not just mice eating garbage-in-a-tube ?

    I guess we won’t know now.

    Reply

  4. paneme Says:

    Is a sample of only two mice enough to say there is a correlation? Just wondering.

    Reply

  5. steve winger Says:

    Over the years there have been various research projects into extending life but there has been nothing conclusive proof that it’s possible, however one suspects that eventually through our ever increasing exponentially knowledge that sooner or later the jigsaw will fall into place. But will you still be around when it happens or ironically just miss it when it seems possible.

    As for the cost factor; any country with medical insurance or a wealthy national health system will pounce at it because it’s likely that if they can reverse aging and prevent it from happening that it would be a much cheaper option in the short term because the majority of cancers plus Heart and Circulatory System diseases occur in aging bodies.

    Reply

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