Humans have long to reverse the effects of aging and prolong their lives. Whether this was due to a love of power, a love of wealth or simple human anxiety about the loss of youth, tales about immortality can be found in the folk tales of countless cultures.
And while aging is a wholly natural process, humans have always struggled to fight against it – be it through science and medicine or through the search for supposed cures such as the mythical Fountain of Youth.
And now, Israeli scientists have claimed to have figured out a solution not only to the process of biological aging – but to reverse it as well, simply by administering pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber.
In a study published Nov. 18 in the peer-reviewed journal Aging, the scientists claim to have showed how aging could be reversed in two key biological clocks in humans related to aging and illness by administering high-pressure oxygen in a pressurized chamber.
When humans grow olders and their cells divide, the sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes – known as telomeres – grow shorter with time. After the telomeres become too short, the cell is unable to replicate and eventually dies.
While telomere shortening can keep rogue cancerous cells from multiplying rapidly, this also results in genetic aging. As a result, geriatric cells that aren’t able to divide – also known as senescent cells – accumulate throughout our lives, and are one of the key causes of aging.
In the clinical study, 35 people aged 64 or older were given hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOT) for 90 minutes a day, five times a week over the course of three months. Blood samples were collected from subjects prior to the treatment, after after the first and second months of the trial, and two weeks after the trial ended.
The patients didn’t have any lifestyle, diet, or medication changes during the study. However, their blood revealed major increases in the telomere length of their cells and a decrease in the number of their senescent cells.
For the researchers, the results of the study offered proof that the process of aging is reversible.
“Researchers around the world are trying to develop pharmacological and environmental interventions that enable telomere elongation,” Prof. Shai Efrati of Tel Aviv University told the Jerusalem Post. “Our HBOT protocol was able to achieve this, proving that the aging process can in fact be reversed at the basic cellular-molecular level.”
The groundbreak study, he added, “gives hope and opens the door for a lot of young scientists to target aging as a reversible disease.”
The oxygen treatment also improved subjects’ attention, ability to process information, as well as subjects’ executive functions, the researchers said.
While attempts to halt aging through modifying one’s lifestyle or intensively exercising can provide “some inhibiting effect on telomere shortening”, the hyperbaric oxygen treatment is more effective, said Efrati’s partner at the Shamir Medical Center, Chief Medical Research Officer Amir Hadanny.
“In our study, only three months of HBOT were able to elongate telomeres at rates far beyond any currently available interventions or lifestyle modifications,” Hadanny said.
The study could open the door to a radical new approach to medical problems and medicine in general.
“Today telomere shortening is considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of the biology of aging,” Prof. Shai Efrati of Tel Aviv University told the Jerusalem Post. “We are not [just] slowing the decline – we are going backwards in time.”
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