With the headlines screaming “age-reversing” possibilities regarding the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard University’s results with mice telomerase manipulation, I felt a bit of cold water was in order.
I am as excited as can be about serious evidence for how important telomeres and telomerase is for anti-aging medicine, don’t get me wrong. But that evidence doesn’t mean there is going to be a longevity pill in our hands this year, this decade, or even this century. And more than a few folks with a grasp of science better than mine agree.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one. My fellow Discover blogger Jennifer Welsh has a great post on 80 Beats about why the discovery, though exciting, is far from a genuine anti-aging solution.
The Harvard team showed the following: Mice engineered to lack telomerase aged prematurely. When given telomerase treatments, the mice rejuvenated to age-appropriate health without adverse side-effects. That’s it. That’s the extent of the discovery.
It still remains to be seen if telomerase treatments can delay normal aging, reverse normal aging, or extend life in any way in mice. From there scientists have to then figure out what side effects there are, why those side effects occur, and then somehow translate the results to human beings.
In short, the Harvard team only confirmed the hypothesis that telomerase in mice impacts the aging process and that it may have potential uses in treating premature aging. Hypotheses beget hypotheses. And not all our hypotheses hinge on mice…
Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
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