Researchers in Israel say they identified a group of molecules that repair damaged cells that break down over time.
From that discovery, they developed a drug that protects human cells from damage so that human tissues can remain functional longer. The same compound can potentially reverse and prevent age-related diseases, offering the potential of a modern "fountain of youth."
The Israeli scientists say their discovery could lead to a pill that prevents age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's, says Study Finds. The scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) note that people are living longer thanks to modern medicine, but the increased longevity comes with more age-related health issues.
This is caused by the decreased effectiveness in the quality-control mechanism of human cells leading to the buildup of defective mitochondria.
"Mitochondria, the cell's 'power plants,' are responsible for energy production," Einav Gross, a professor at the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at HU, said in a news release. "They can be compared to tiny electric batteries that help cells function properly. Although these 'batteries' wear out constantly, our cells have a sophisticated mechanism that removes defective mitochondria and replaces them with new ones."
The professor says that this mechanism declines with age, leading to cell dysfunction and deterioration in tissue activity.
This degenerative process lies at the heart of many age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and heart failure, which are on the rise. Gross and Shmuel Ben-Sasson, of the Faculty of Medicine at HU, along with their colleagues published a study on their innovate technology that could not only repair damaged cells but prevent future degeneration. The technology involves a procedure by which defective mitochondria are removed and then replaced by new ones.
The molecules used to perform this task can be used preventatively, researchers say.
"In the future, we hope we will be able to significantly delay the development of many age-related diseases and improve people's quality of life," said Ben-Sasson, who added that the compounds he and his team developed are user-friendly and can be taken orally.
According to Study Finds, the researchers, with Yissum, HU's tech transfer company, have created startup company Vitalunga to further develop the compound into an anti-aging drug.
"Ben-Sasson's and Gross' findings have significant value for the global aging population," said Itzik Goldwaser, CEO of Yissum. "As Vitalunga advances toward pre-clinical studies, they're closer than ever to minimizing the unbearable burden that aging-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, has on individuals, their families and our health care systems."
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