A team of scientists may have just discovered a way to reverse the process of aging, which could help reduce age-related diseases.
The discovery was made at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), where researchers used computer simulations to model the way certain molecules interact with each other.
Through this, they identified an enzyme that could be targeted to reverse a natural aging process, known as cellular senescence. In senescence, cells have an inability to go through the cell cycle and cease dividing.
The scientists said they believe their ‘findings provide insight into a potential therapeutic strategy to treat age-related diseases associated with the accumulation of senescent cells’.
‘Our research opens the door for a new generation that perceives aging as a reversible biological phenomenon,’ said Kwang-Hyun Cho, a professor for the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering at KAIST who led the research, as per Tech Explorist.
During the course of a person’s lifetime, cells are compromised by several factors, including DNA damage and oxidative stress. To protect the body, these cells undergo the process of senescence and exit the cell cycle. This is important, as it prevents damaged cells from reproducing and potentially turning cancerous.
While the new research suggests that cellular senescence can be reversed, significant more work will need to be carried out as the current approach could impair the regeneration of cell tissue.
In their research, the scientists studied skin fibroblasts. These are cells found in the dermis layer of the skin that regenerate tissue and repair wounds.
Through the use of technology and algorithms, they developed a model than can simulate the different processes of these cells, and which molecule in particular could be targeted to reverse cell aging.
Cho and his team discovered that blocking one of the molecules, an enzyme called PDK1, meant the cells could come out of senescence and re-enter the cell cycle. The cells retained their capacity to repair wounded skin without impairing the regeneration of cell tissue.
They predict that as the gene which codes for PDK1 is overexpressed in some types of cancer, inhibiting the enzyme could have anti-aging and anti-cancer effects, as per Tech Explorist.