Has the secret to halting the aging process been unveiled? That certainly seems to be the case with the work done by researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Brighton. Together, the team of scientists has discovered a new method of rejuvenating inactive senescent cells, or cells that have lost the ability to reproduce themselves.
This effort worked off earlier findings on splicing factors, which are genes that are gradually switched off with age. Splicing factors play several key roles in safeguarding the functions of genes; their efficacy greatly diminishes as people age, as do the splicing factors’ numbers. The researchers found that these genes could be turned back on through the use of chemicals—specifically, resveratrol analogues. These chemicals occur naturally in dark chocolate, red wine, blueberries, and red grapes.
Applying resveratrol analogues caused the splicing factors to switch back on, reported ScienceDaily.com. In the span of 92 hours, the researchers observed the cells appearing and behaving like younger cells, and even regained their ability to splice and divide.
“This demonstrates that when you treat old cells with molecules that restore the levels of the splicing factors, the cells regain some features of youth. They are able to grow, and their telomeres — the caps on the ends of the chromosomes that shorten as we age — are now longer, as they are in young cells” said Lorna Harries, lead researcher and Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Exeter.
The results of the team’s findings surprised even the researchers. “When I saw some of the cells in the culture dish rejuvenating I couldn’t believe it. These old cells were looking like young cells. It was like magic” said Dr. Eva Latorre, Research Associate at the University of Exeter and Harries’ colleague on the experiment. “I repeated the experiments several times and in each case the cells rejuvenated. I am very excited by the implications and potential for this research.”
Of the implications of their work, the Exeter team is hopeful that the results could lead to therapies that make the aging process easier. Most notably, by allowing people to age without undergoing the degenerative effects and deficiencies, such as chronic illness. (Related: 1 in 9 American adults over the age of 65 now have Alzheimer’s disease.)
Until then, would it be safe to say that eating foods abundant in resveratrol can help against aging? To a degree, yes. Past studies have shown that resveratrol encourages longer cell life by stimulating cellular proteins known as sirtuins. According to HuffingtonPost.com, resveratrol can boost mitochondrial activity, resulting in increased cellular energy and possibly extending the lives of the affected cells.
But before you start imbibing red wine with impunity, do keep in mind that you’d need to drink more of this stuff than humanly possible to enjoy the anti-aging benefits of resveratrol—about 60 L or 15.85 U.S. liquid gallons, to be exact.
Don’t despair, though. Even if you can’t down all that red wine, there are other steps you can take to make the aging process a lot easier on your body. These include:
- Exercising regularly. Physical activity won’t just keep the pounds off, it’ll also preserve your muscle mass and strength.
- Limiting the amount of stress you deal with and maintaining a positive attitude. You are what you think, and if you think of yourself as old and helpless, then you might just start feeling it.
- Eating healthier. This would entail consuming more fruits and vegetables and cutting down on the sweets, fats, and carbohydrates. Mind your food portions too.
- Protecting yourself from the sun. While we need vitamin D, the skin only needs a few minutes under the sun to produce this necessary vitamin. Once those minutes have passed, you risk making yourself more susceptible to skin cancer.
- Getting enough sleep. The chronic lack of sleep can actually speed up aging by accelerating the rate at which your brain deteriorates. So be sure to sleep for at least seven hours each night.