New technique proves capable of reversing age-related vision lossBGR — Mike Wehner
- Scientists used a mouse study to demonstrate that it’s possible to reverse age-related vision decline.
- The team used genes that are present during embryo development to give the eyes of the mice a sort of boost, and it proved effective.
- It might be possible to use a similar technique in humans, though additional research is needed before those trials could take place.
Scientists have made some great advancements in the field of age-related illnesses, but actually turning back time on the DNA of a living creature remains an elusive holy grail. We know that DNA gradually breaks down as a person grows older. We see that damage as aging and various age-related illnesses tend to pop up the older a person gets and the more their genes degrade.
Now, researchers from Harvard Medical School appear to have made a big leap in reversing aging in mice. More specifically, the researchers managed to revitalize the vision of aging mice by giving them a boost using genes that are present during early development.
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As the researchers explain in a new paper published in Nature, the work focused on glaucoma-induced vision degradation in the mice. The team used a virus to affect the retinas of the mice using a trio of what are described as “youth-restoring genes.” These genes, Oct4, Sox2, and Klf4, are said to be active when the embryos of the mice are developing.
This, the researchers say, caused a dramatic reversal of the age-related vision problems the mice were experiencing. It “promoted nerve regeneration” while also reversing the glaucoma-like condition in the animals that were plagued by it. For the mice with age-related vision loss without glaucoma, the effect was similar, and the mice regained the vision they had previously lost.
“Our study demonstrates that it’s possible to safely reverse the age of complex tissues such as the retina and restore its youthful biological function,” David Sinclair, senior author of the study, said in a statement. “If affirmed through further studies, these findings could be transformative for the care of age-related vision diseases like glaucoma and to the fields of biology and medical therapeutics for disease at large.”
As impressive as the results were, the researchers caution that they would have to be replicated in future studies if further progress is to be made using these genes for vision loss reversal in other animals including humans. It’s promising, but it’s definitely not ready for human testing yet.
“At the beginning of this project, many of our colleagues said our approach would fail or would be too dangerous to ever be used,” author Yuancheng Lu explained. “Our results suggest this method is safe and could potentially revolutionize the treatment of the eye and many other organs affected by aging.”