Researchers from Israel reversed two key processes involved in aging.
- Israeli scientists reversed two major processes involved in aging.
- Their new therapy counteracted the shortening of telomeres and the accumulation of old and dying cells.
- The study participants underwent oxygen treatments in hyperbaric chambers.
Scientists from Israel carried out a study that might prove groundbreaking in the human quest to slow the biological march of time. Researchers used oxygen treatments in hyperbaric chambers to stop blood cells from aging, actually making them grow younger.
The scientists devised a novel program that uses high-pressure oxygen in a pressure chamber to reverse two key processes that stem from aging. They were able to counteract the shortening of telomeres, which are protective regions at the ends of every chromosome, and the body's aggregation of old and poorly-functioning cells.
As we get older, our cells continue to divide, while the telomeres keep getting shorter. If they become too short, the cells stop replicating (becoming "senescent") and eventually die. This results in genetic aging. Analyzing the study participant immune cells, the researchers saw a lengthening in 38 percent of the telomeres, while the senescent cells decreased by 37 percent. This is similar to the cellular state of their bodies 25 years earlier, the researchers noted.
The pressurized chamber involved in the study.
Credit: Shamir Medical Center
The study involved 35 healthy people over 64 years old, who underwent 60 hyperbaric sessions in 3 months. With the air pressure in the chamber twice that of normal, the subjects would breathe pure oxygen, saturating their blood and bodily tissues.
The research team was led by Professor Shai Efrati from Tel Aviv University, who is also the Founder and Director of the Sagol Center of Hyperbaric Medicine at the Shamir Medical Center, as well as Dr. Amir Hadanny, the Sagol Center's Chief Medical Research Officer.
In a press release, Professor Efrati explained that their team has been working on hyperbaric research and therapy for many years, looking to develop treatments based on exposing patients to varying concentrations of high-pressure oxygen. One of their achievements was in improving aging people's brain functions. The current study was focused on seeing if the aging process could be slowed down at the cellular level in healthy adults.
What are telomeres?
"Today telomere shortening is considered the 'Holy Grail' of the biology of aging," Professor Efrati elaborated. "Researchers around the world are trying to develop pharmacological and environmental interventions that enable telomere elongation. Our HBOT protocol was able to achieve this, proving that the aging process can in fact be reversed at the basic cellular-molecular level."
Dr. Hadanny added that, previously, lifestyle changes and a great deal of exercise were required to achieve some impact on the shortening of telomeres. But in their "pioneering" study, "only three months of HBOT were able to elongate telomeres at rates far beyond any currently available interventions or lifestyle modifications."
While more research is required to expand upon these results, you can check out the promising study published in the journal Aging.
Scientists create a portable device that can detect 17 diseases, including 8 different cancers, straight from a person's breath.
Scientists have created a device straight out of Star Trek that can detect 17 diseases, including 8 different types of cancer, just from your breath. The tricorder-like Na-nose can spot chemical signatures of the diseases and it’s hoped it will revolutionize treatment of many dangerous illnesses by spreading convenient early-detection technology. The international team of researchers from 5 countries, led by Professor Hassam Haick of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, is next developing Sniffphone for disease detection right through your smartphone.
The Na-nose device features a sensor nano-array of carbon nanotubes and tiny gold particles controlled by AI software. This program can analyze human breath samples for special chemical signatures that correspond to various diseases. This works because people exhale over a 100 unique chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and the team proved that each disease has a very specific chemical signature within a person’s VOC. The scientists used mass spectrometry to figure out a 13-component "breathprint" for each of the 17 diseases in the study.
"We found that just as we each have a unique fingerprint, each of the diseases we studied has an unique breath print, a 'signature' of chemical components," said Professor Haick. "We have a device which can discriminate between them, which is elegant and affordable."
Why is breath particularly convenient for diagnosis?
“Breath is an excellent raw material for diagnosis,” Professor Haick told Haaretz. “It is available without the need for invasive and unpleasant procedures, it’s not dangerous, and you can sample it again and again if necessary.”
Besides cancers, the conditions the device can diagnose include Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis. Crohn’s disease and kidney disease. The Na-nose was tested on 2,800 breath samples from 1,404 people in the U.S., Israel, France, Latvia and China and was able to correctly diagnose in almost 9 out 10 cases.
It’s the first time a device was created that can distinguish between different diseases in a breath sample. Artificial intelligence plays a large role in that. Professor Haick, a nanotechnology expert, explained its workings this way to Smithsonian.com:
“We can teach the system that a breathprint could be associated with a particular disease,” said Haick. “It works in the same way we'd use dogs in order to detect specific compounds. We bring something to the nose of a dog, and the dog will transfer that chemical mixture to an electrical signature and provide it to the brain, and then memorize it in specific regions of the brain … This is exactly what we do. We let it smell a given disease but instead of a nose we use chemical sensors, and instead of the brain we use the algorithms. Then in the future, it can recognize the disease as a dog might recognize a scent.”
Haick said their AI “nose” can be used in other industries as well, like security or quality control.
If you’re looking for historical perspective, even ancient doctors as far back as the famous Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC) were used to smelling the breaths of their patients to figure out their illnesses.
The scientists have continued testing the device on thousands more patients since the trial and hope to bring it to market soon. They think making this technology widespread could really impact the survival rates of patients with certain diseases by allowing for much earlier detection.
You can read the study here, in the American Chemical Society Nano journal.
Watch the interview with Professor Haick here:
Cover photo: Na-nose device. Credit: Technion-Israel Institute of Technology/Youtube.