Is it possible to live indefinitely? A new anti-aging vaccination may be one step closer to immortality.

31st December, 2021.      //   Health  // 

What if you had the ability to live indefinitely? It’s a subject that both fictional supervillains and Silicon Valley billionaires have pondered for years.Now, researchers in Japan claim that successful trials of a vaccination against cells that contribute to the aging process have taken a step toward increasing human longevity.

The researchers from Tokyo’s Juntendo University found that a treatment targeting a protein found in senescent cells – cells that have naturally stopped replicating themselves – delayed the course of frailty in older mice in laboratory testing.
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The vaccination also successfully targeted senescent cells in adipose tissue and blood arteries, implying that it could benefit other age-related medical disorders. “We can expect (the vaccine) to be used to treat arterial stiffening, diabetes, and other age-related disorders,” Juntendo professor Toru Minamino told the Jiji news agency in Japan.

What is cellular senescence?
Cells become senescent when they stop duplicating themselves, often in response to naturally-occurring damage to their DNA. Cellular senescence is thought to contribute to the ageing process itself, as well as ageing-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and some cancers. “Senescent cells secrete a series of factors that disrupt the function of the tissue,” Dr Salvador Macip, head of the University of Leicester’s Mechanisms of Cancer and Ageing Lab, told Euronews Next.

“They ‘call’ cells from the immune system, in theory to be cleared by them (but that eventually fails) and create a chronic low level inflammation, mixed with fibrosis,” Macip said. Macip was part of an international team of academics from universities in the UK, Spain, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia that published research on another method of tackling senescent cells in October this year. “The biological process of ageing is very complex, therefore it is unlikely that one single strategy will completely stop it or reverse it. However, there are probably many ways to slow it down, and clearing senescent cells seems to be one of the easiest and potentially more effective,” he said.

The limit on lifespan
In laboratory tests, preventing the build-up of senescent cells extended the lifespan of mice by 15 per cent, Macip told Euronews Next. Other, similar experiments have achieved as much as a 35 per cent increase, he said. But before you get too excited, it’s worth bearing in mind that researchers still don’t know how much a living creature’s lifespan can be extended. “This is a very interesting question, and one that we still have not agreed upon. Some believe there is a ‘hard’ limit for human lifespan (around 130 years is the current estimate), while others think that, on paper, immortality should be feasible,” Macip said.

“It’s still early to know how much life can be extended and whether there’s a limit or not”.

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Similar experiments have reported up to a 35 per cent increase in the longevity of mice

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