[ExI] Californian boffins find Elixir of Eternal Youth

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Mon Jun 16 21:17:08 UTC 2008

"Boffins" in inglese inglese vuol dire "scienziati"...

Californian boffins find Elixir of Eternal YouthFor mice only. Catherine
Zeta Jones not involvedBy Lewis
More by this author <http://search.theregister.co.uk/?author=Lewis%20Page>
Published Monday 16th June 2008 09:56 GMT

Mouse-molesting boffins in California have used biochemical signals to
rejuvenate elderly, knackered bodily tissues in a fashion normally only
achievable by youngsters. However, the scientists insist that they have not
yet achieved an immortality drug, and if they had it would only be for mice.

"We're not at a point where we're ready to inject ourselves with [this
stuff]" said Dr Morgan Carlson.

Carlson's research was overseen by Irina Conboy, associate prof at UC
Berkeley. There doesn't seem to be any doubt that the two boffins are in
fact looking for an immortality drug: Conboy has described her
"Pathways to the Fountain of Youth".

The long-sought elixir of eternal life may not yet be in our grasp, but
Conboy and Carlson have managed something promising enough to get them
published in *Nature*, perhaps the most prestigious boffinry journal.

It seems that when we're young, the stem cells in our bodies constantly
repair and reinvigorate us. When we get old, this stops happening and pretty
soon people are going through your stuff.

"We don't realize it, but as we grow our bodies are constantly being
remodeled," according to Conboy. "We are constantly falling apart, but we
don't notice it much when we're young because we're always being restored.
As we age, our stem cells are prevented, through chemical signals, from
doing their jobs."

Apparently one can revitalise stem cells by putting them in the right
chemical environment. "When old tissue is placed in an environment of young
blood, the stem cells behave as if they are young again," according to the
Berkeley press release - in a process not unlike that undergone by wrinkly
old Hollywood stars placed in an environment of Catherine Zeta Jones.

Essentially, the Californian researchers were able to persuade muscle
tissues in some mice that they were young again. We didn't entirely follow
how they did it.

"Interestingly, activated Notch competes with activated pSmad3 for binding
to the regulatory regions of the same CDK inhibitors in the stem cell," said
Professor Conboy.

That certainly is interesting.

"We found that Notch is capable of physically kicking off pSmad3 from the
promoters for the CDK inhibitors within the stem cell's nucleus, which" - as
any fool would realise - "tells us that a precise manipulation of the
balance of these pathways would allow the ability to control stem cell

Diddling with Notch and pSmad3 levels using "an established method of RNA
interference" allowed Conboy and Carlson to manipulate TGF-beta proteins and
fire up the dormant stem cells of a group of elderly mice.

The octogenarian murines "showed levels of cellular regeneration that were
comparable to their much younger peers", apparently. But people shouldn't
just start swigging down Notch, pSmad3 and TGF-beta at random. Cellular
regeneration, out of hand, is sometimes just another name for cancer.

Still, the Californian brainboxes seem cautiously optimistic.

"When we are young, there is an optimal balance between Notch and TGF-beta,"
according to Conboy. "We need to find out what the levels of these chemicals
are in the young so we can calibrate the system when we're older. If we can
do that, we could rejuvenate tissue repair for a very long time."
One thing's for sure - all this could have serious consequences for the
mighty Japanese robotics industry, currently tooling up to make billions
looking after the increasingly wrinkly populace of the Land of the Rising
Sun. The Berkeley elixir-of-youth researchers had best watch their backs.
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