Aside from learning the real words to “Louie Louie,” Boomers have wanted one thing more than anything else: a reversal of the aging process. It now appears that researchers at the Mayo Clinic might have provided just that ticket.
Boomers have long wondered what makes people age, aside from stress from both their teenagers and their investment portfolios. While Boomers were spending most of their time watching the antics of each of the aforementioned stress-inducers, scientists were concentrating instead on something they call “senescent” cells as the possible culprit. Until recently, no one knew how to spell “senescent,” and so there was no way to tell if the presence of the cells was good, bad or, like customer service departments, completely indifferent.
These “deadbeat” cells, as they are called, in homage to various family members currently living in Boomers’ basements, accumulate over time and produce chemicals that damage tissue and trigger inflammation. Time reports: “When cells become senescent, they produce harmful compounds such as those that cause inflammation. Chronic tissue inflammation with aging is thought to underlie dementia, atherosclerosis and diabetes, among other ills, according to James Kirkland, head of Mayo’s Center on Aging, who was also an author of the study.”
A research team at the Mayo Clinic has generated a strain of mouse that was engineered to age rapidly. A drug was then used to target only senescent cells and force them to self-destruct. In mice that were treated throughout their lifetimes, researchers said they saw a remarkable delay in the development of cataracts, muscle wasting and the type of fat loss that, in humans, causes skin wrinkling. Another group of mice was treated in older age, after cataracts had already set in. The drug didn’t reverse the age-related changes that had already occurred, but it prevented further decline. And scientists still don’t know if the drug actually does expand lifespan because, in the current study the animals were bred to have heart attacks and die at an early age anyway, which seems like saying “Congratulations on your improved life. Now die.”
Before Boomers start trolling the internet for used VW campers, they should understand that, like most things that will have a profound influence on their lives, rodents, and not the popular media, set the standard. The Mayo Clinic researchers plan to repeat their experiment with normal mice which have not been engineered to age prematurely, to see whether the treatment has an influence on longevity. Scientists are already standing by with a lot of pairs of really tiny bell-bottoms, in the event the newly-rejuvinated mice do, indeed, find the fountain of youth.