| Updated at: 0945 PST, Tuesday, November 15, 2011|
WASHINGTON: Scientists are beginning to decode the complex biology of aging and are optimistic that recent advances in research may lead to treatments that can slow or even reverse degeneration and disease.
"We are seeing a major change, very important developments and real therapeutic efforts to try to treat age-related illnesses," said Norman Sharpless, professor of medicine and genetics at the University of North Carolina.
The French research, led by Jean-Marc Lemaitre at the Functional Genomics Institute, published in October, shows cells from elderly donors can be rejuvenated as stem cells, erasing the ravages of age and proving that aging is reversible.
"It's a major advance," Sharpless said, noting that if many age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular problems or Alzheimer's are to be defeated, regenerative medicine will be required.
But he stressed that "cellular therapy is very difficult to develop," and expectations must be kept in check.
At the end of 2010 an American study in Boston showed that aging could be reversed in mice that were treated with telomerase, a naturally occurring enzyme in the body that protects DNA sequences (telomeres) at the end of chromosomes and which shorten cellular aging. (AFP)