A new gene therapy has been developed by scientists in Beijing that can counteract some of the symptoms of ageing in mice and prolong their lifespans, results that could one day lead to similar care for humans.
The procedure, detailed earlier this month in a paper in the Science Translational Medicine journal, requires the inactivation of a gene called kat7, which scientists find to be a central contributor to cellular ageing.
The unique treatment they used and the findings were the first in the world, said project co-supervisor Professor Qu Jing, 40, an ageing and regenerative medicine expert from the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
These mice exhibit increased appearance and grip power overall after six to eight months and, most notably, they have an extended lifespan of around 25 percent,” Qu said.
The CRISPR-Cas9 approach was used by the team of biologists from numerous CAS departments to test thousands of genes for those which were especially powerful drivers of cellular senescence, the concept used to characterise cellular ageing.
Out of about 10,000, they found 100 genes, and kat7 was the most successful in contributing to cell senescence, Qu said.
One of tens of thousands of genes present in mammalian cells is Kat7. Using a process called a lentiviral vector, the researchers inactivated it in the livers of the mice.
We only checked the gene’s function in various kinds of cell types, in human stem cells, in mesenchymal progenitor cells, in human liver cells and in mouse liver cells, and we did not see any detectable cell toxicity for all of these cells. And for rats, we haven’t observed any side effects yet either.
Given this, Qu said, the procedure is a long way from being fit for clinical trials.
Before we use the technique for human ageing or other health problems, it is also obviously important to test the role of kat7 in other cell types of humans and other organs of mice and in other preclinical animals, she added.
Qu said she wants to be able to try the procedure next on primates, but first it will take a lot of money and a lot of testing.
In the end, we expect that we will find a way to prolong ageing in the future, even by a very small percentage […]