Broadly speaking, Belmonte says he believes the “dysregulation” of these control systems is a fundamental process underlying aging and many diseases.
To rejuvenate cells, Belmonte has been exploring a method to reset the epigenome called “reprogramming.” During his talk, Belmonte ran through examples of how reprogrammed cells become more resistant to stress and damage and generally appear to act younger.
In one experiment, for example, he says his lab gave mice ultra-high doses of the pain reliever acetaminophen that are usually fatal. However, if the mice are given a reprogramming treatment, which consists of special proteins called Yamanaka factors, half will survive. “We reduce mortality by about 50%, more or less,” he says.
He also described experiments in which mutant mice were allowed to devour high-fat foods. They became obese, but not if given a brief dose of the same reprogramming proteins. In some ways, he said, the procedure can “prevent the increase in fatty tissue.”
So how is it that reprogramming can have such different, but very useful, effects in mice? This is the mystery he is trying to unravel. “I could go on and on about the … examples that we’ve been using in the lab these past few years,” Belmonte said. “You have to agree with me that this is a little strange, to have a medicine that can cure all these things. “
Is this what the fountain of youth looks like? Many researchers remain skeptical, and some say Belmonte’s dramatic claims should have more evidence. On Twitter, biologist Lluis Montoliu warned against “unwarranted exaggeration” and said researchers should “wait and see” scientific publications.
Even as police herded onlookers away from the door, Belmonte revealed evidence of what he says is a second way to produce rejuvenating results, which Altos is also pursuing.
Some researchers suspect that aging could cause our cells to lose control over some of the so-called junk DNA that makes up 45% of our genomes and is the residue of genes known as transposable elements, or jumper genes , which are able to copy each other. a bit like a virus.