Drug combo not just slows ag­ing, it re­verses it

Growth Hor­mone Com­bined With Two Di­a­betes Drugs Helps Test Group Shave Off 2.5 Years

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Trends -

Sci­en­tists might be able to re­verse process of ag­ing, a small clin­i­cal study in Cal­i­for­nia sug­gests.

For one year, nine healthy vol­un­teers took a cock­tail of three com­mon drugs — growth hor­mone and two di­a­betes med­i­ca­tions — and on av­er­age shed 2.5 years of their bi­o­log­i­cal ages, mea­sured by analysing marks on a per­son’s genomes. The par­tic­i­pants’ im­mune sys­tems also showed signs of re­ju­ve­na­tion. But re­searchers cau­tion that the find­ings are pre­lim­i­nary be­cause the trial was small and did not in­clude a con­trol arm.

“I ex­pected to see slow­ing down of the clock, but not a re

ver­sal,” Steve Hor­vath from the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, who con­ducted the epi­ge­netic anal­y­sis, told ‘Na­ture’. “That felt kind of fu­tur­is­tic.” The find­ings were pub­lished on Septem­ber 5 in Ag­ing Cell.

Sci­en­tists cau­tion that the study was done with a very lim­ited num­ber of par­tic­i­pants: only nine peo­ple took the drug cock­tail, and there was no con­trol group. But if it is con­firmed by fur­ther re­search it could have huge im­pacts on health­care, the treat­ment of dis­ease and how peo­ple think abotu ag­ing, they said.

In the study, par­tic­i­pants were given a growth hor­mone and two di­a­betes med­i­ca­tions. They then watched the ef­fect on peo­ple’s epi­ge­netic clock, to un­der­stand the ef­fect on how they aged. The epi­ge­netic clock is mea­sured by the epigenome in the body. As peo­ple age, chem­i­cal modificati­ons or tags are added to peo­ple’s DNA, and those change through­out their life — so by look­ing at those tags, a per­son’s bi­o­log­i­cal age can be mea­sured.

Re­searchers had ac­tu­ally in­tended to look at how the growth hor­mone would change the tis­sue in the thy­mus gland, which helps with the body’s im­mune func­tions and sits in the chest. It nor­mally shrinks af­ter pu­berty but they hoped to see whether it could be pushed to re­grow, by giv­ing par­tic­i­pants the growth hor­mone.

It was only as a sec­ondary con­sid­er­a­tion that re­searchers then checked how the drugs changed their epi­ge­netic clocks. The study had fin­ished when the anal­y­sis be­gan.

Hor­vath then looked at four dif­fer­ent mea­sures of the epi­ge­netic clock to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ing ages of each of the pa­tients. And he found that ev­ery one of them had re­versed sig­nif­i­cantly — so sig­nif­i­cantly that he is op­ti­mistic about the re­sults, de­spite the lim­ited num­ber of par­tic­i­pants. Sci­en­tists now hope to test the same ef­fects with more peo­ple, through a con­trolled study, and with dif­fer­ent age groups, eth­nic­i­ties and with women.

The changes could still be seen in the blood of six par­tic­i­pants who pro­vided their blood, long af­ter the study fin­ished. Some of the drugs used in the cock­tail are al­ready be­ing re­searched as ways of fight­ing age-re­lated dis­eases.

But the ef­fect of the three of them could have ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for the ways that a va­ri­ety of drugs are tested, ex­perts say.

Getty Im­ages/iS­tock­photo

Sci­en­tists cau­tion that the study was done with a very lim­ited num­ber of par­tic­i­pants: only nine peo­ple, and there was no con­trol group

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