A group of researchers from the Spanish National Center for Cancer Research (CNIO) claims to have succeeded in creating in the laboratory the first mice born with telomers much longer than the average of their species. Telomeres are regions that are located at the ends of the chromosome and have the function of protecting the latter from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes. Telomeres become shorter and smaller as we get older and one of the scientists’ goals is to make them stay the same length or to make them longer just to counteract the aging phenomenon.
In a new study, published in Nature Communications, the researchers found that mice with longer telomeres lived longer and with better health, free from diseases such as cancer and obesity. This research is very important, according to the authors, also because in this case the longevity of the mice was increased without resorting to genetic modifications. According to Maria Blasco, CNIO researcher and one of the authors of the study, genes are not the only alternative to consider when talking about longevity: “There is scope to prolong life without altering genes.”
And since the shortening of the telomeres themselves is considered one of the main causes of aging in mammals, it is therefore possible to work with their shortening to increase the life span and make its course better, and this is what happened with mice in the Spanish laboratory, becoming “super mice” who lived longer and in better health.
The methods used so far to alter the length of telomeres have always been based on the alteration of the expression of genes. The method used by the Spanish group is instead based on a therapy that favors the synthesis of telomerase. The researchers obtained hyper-long telomeres in 100% of mouse cells. The latter showed that they had fewer tumors and lived longer. They also showed other positive qualities: they accumulated less fat and were leaner and showed lower metabolic aging with lower levels of bad cholesterol and better tolerance to insulin and glucose.
In general, the damage done by aging to their DNA was less and the mitochondria worked better. These are unprecedented results that show that telomeres longer than normal are not only not harmful but have beneficial effects and delay metabolic age.