Scientists have apparently been able to reverse some of the effects of ageing by up to 25 years in a landmark study.
Using oxygen therapy, the researchers returned the bodies of a group of 35 adults aged 64 and older to a cellular level last seen a quarter century earlier.
The study, published in the journal Ageing, saw the volunteers placed in pressurised oxygen chambers in Israel and given pure oxygen to breathe in through a mask.
The sessions lasted for 90 minutes each and took place five days a week for three months.
Scientists showed that this treatment was able to reverse two key indicators of biological ageing – telomere shortening and an accumulation of malfunctioning senescent cells.
As humans age, their bodies experience the shortening of telomeres – the protective caps on chromosomes – which leads to illnesses including cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Senescent cells, also known as ‘zombie cells’, prevent regeneration as they build up in the body over time.
The pressurised chamber works by mimicking a state of ‘hypoxia’, or oxygen shortage. This allows tissues to dissolve more oxygen, leading to the regenerative effects.
The trial results showed telomeres regrew by more than 20%, while volunteers’ senescent cells had been reduced by up to 37%.
This is the equivalent to how their bodies were at a cellular level 25 years earlier, the scientists said.
Professor Shai Efrati, a Professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, and co-author of the study said: ‘Since telomere shortening is considered the “Holy Grail” of the biology of ageing, many pharmacological and environmental interventions are being extensively explored in the hopes of enabling telomere elongation.
‘The significant improvement of telomere length shown during and after these unique protocols provides the scientific community with a new foundation of understanding that ageing can indeed be targeted and reversed at the basic cellular-biological level.’
Some scientists believe ageing can be cured, like a disease, and the study is the latest to attempt to understand the ageing process and look at ways of increasing life expectancy and making people feel younger.
It’s previously been established that lifestyle changes like eating healthily and exercising regularly can preserve telomere length but this was the first time external interventions have been shown to have the same effect.
Study researcher Dr Amir Hadanny said: ’Until now, interventions such as lifestyle modifications and intense exercise were shown to have some inhibition effect on the expected telomere length shortening.
‘However, what is remarkable to note in our study is that, in just three months of therapy, we were able to achieve such significant telomere elongation – at rates far beyond any of the current available interventions or lifestyle modifications.’
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