The identification of the DNA markers associated with ageing has brought us one step closer to the ever-elusive Fountain of Youth. UCLA geneticist Steve Horvath just published details about the discovery, and says that this could actually lead to drugs that reverse the process of ageing.
"Ultimately, it would be very exciting to develop therapy interventions to reset the clock and hopefully keep us young," Horvath told The Guardian. He studied the methylation of nearly 8000 samples of healthy and cancerous tissue and found 353 DNA markers that varied with ageing. They effectively work like little biological clocks. Interestingly, different types of tissue age at different rates. Whereas the biological age of heart tissue appears around nine years younger than it should, cancerous tissue appears to be an average of 36 years older.
Horvath even figured out how we might potentially reset the clock. Using a technique that fetched a Nobel Prize for a British and a Japanese scientist last year, he converted adult cells into stem cells and found that the clock on those DNA markers returned to zero. "It provides a proof of concept that one can reset the clock," he said.
The more immediate, practical implications of this research are a little unclear; we don't know yet if the genetic markers control ageing or are just a consequence. But let's not get bogged down by specifics quite yet. In a matter of speaking, scientists now have a roadmap to the Fountain of Youth. Now, we just need to hitch a ride. [The Guardian]