Several scientists at Intervene Immune and Stanford Medical Center say they have proven that “epigenetic aging can be reversed in humans,” according to Forbes.
Over the weekend, the authors published their findings in Aging Cell, claiming their clinical study was small and lacked a control group. However, nevertheless, they said they are optimistic that a person’s biological age can be reversed.
According to the report, “epigenetic age does not measure all features of aging and is not synonymous with aging itself, it is the most accurate measure of biological age and age‐related disease risk available today.” But researchers say the results “bring to light, robust evidence that regression of multiple aspects and biomarkers of aging is possible in man.”
Intervene Immune, which focuses on the age-related decline of the immune system, known as immunosenescence, have been studying the clinical potential of regenerating the thymus—a specialized primary lymphoid organ of the immune system—as a means of reversing age-related immune system decline, as said in the article.
“Epigenetic ‘clocks’ can now surpass chronological age in accuracy for estimating biological age,” the authors wrote.
In the study, nine healthy white men took a combination of three drugs; growth hormone and two diabetes medications for a complete year. The participants dropped an average of 2.5 years off of their biological ages, and their immune systems showed clinical signs of rejuvenation.
“This is to our knowledge the first report of an increase, based on an epigenetic age estimator, in predicted human lifespan by means of a currently accessible aging intervention,” authors wrote in Aging Cell.
Steve Horvath, a University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) geneticist and one of the study’s authors who is a pioneer of measuring human aging through epigenetic signatures, told the journal Nature the results even surprised him.
“I’d expected to see slowing down of the clock, but not a reversal. That felt kind of futuristic.” He told the publication that all four different epigenetic clocks he used indicated significant reversal for each trial participant in all of the tests.
“This told me that the biological effect of the treatment was robust,” he said. He added that the effect remained in the six participants who provided final blood samples six months after the completion of the study.
However, there are some skeptics. Cell biologist Wolfgang Wagner at the University of Aachen in Germany, told Nature, “It may be that there is an effect … But the results are not rock solid because the study is very small and not well controlled.”
According to the researchers, more studies need to be done on immunosenescence. They say that as the thymus shrinks in old age, critical immune cell populations are depleted, resulting in a collapse of the T‐cell receptor (TCR) supply in humans after the age of 63.
The depletion of T-cells has been linked to nearly all causes of death in the aged, including age‐related increases in cancer incidence, infectious disease, autoimmune conditions, generalized inflammation, and atherosclerosis.
“Although much more remains to be done,” study authors wrote, “the general prospects for meaningful amelioration of human aging appear to be remarkably promising.”