Several new studies are successfully utilizing non-animal methods to advance our understanding of aging. Aging has been linked to the shortening of telomeres, the protective caps of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that are considered the ”Holy Grail of Aging.” Scientists believe that telomere malfunction is related to cancer and aging. Another manifestation of aging appears to be the buildup of malfunctioning cells, known as “senescent” cells.
A new study out of Israel attempted to reverse these characteristics of aging cells through administering hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOT) to human volunteers. The research team had already determined through prior work that HBOT led to improvement of brain function damaged by age, stroke or brain injury. Now they wanted to examine its effects at the cellular level.
Scientists from Tel Aviv University (TAU) and the Shamir Medical Center exposed human volunteers aged 64 and older to high-pressure oxygen sessions over a period of 90 days and analyzed immune cells taken from their blood samples before, during and after the sessions.
The results were astounding – telomere length actually increased at a rate of 20%-38%, while the percentage of senescent cells was decreased by 11% - 37% – demonstrating that the HBOT treatments do indeed reverse the cellular determinants of aging.
To better understand telomeres, they must be visualized, but previous techniques were inadequate, damaging the cells, or usable only in non-living cells. Now researchers in Japan have constructed a synthetic probe that inserts a fluorescent compound into telomeres of live human cell lines, lighting up the walls and allowing scientists to visualize telomere shortening. This ability to see telomeres up close and in action can be developed to help identify genetic diseases and to further understanding of human aging.
But studies like these are the exception, and millions of dollars for aging research go towards cruel and sometimes barbaric experiments on animals. One common method for studying aging involves the monstrous practice of cutting and sewing two mice together, one older and one young, to see if the blood from the young mouse can reverse aging in the older mouse.
The mutilated mice will spend a miserable few months co-joined as scientists study them, often breaking their bones or damaging their hearts to see what effect this has on healing. This procedure, called parabiosis, is carried out with millions of dollars in funding from the National Institute of Aging.
At Texas Biomedical Research Institute, aging research is carried out on primates, where they maintain populations of marmosets and baboons for that purpose. One experiment to study the effects of aging killed 6 marmosets, between 4 and 20 years old to dissect their brains.
These despicable experiments are why CAARE fights every day to expose inhumane animal research for what it is: heartless, antiquated and irrelevant to our understanding of human biology.
If we are to make progress in science and medicine, we must see an end to such animal abuse posing as science. Powerful and effective methods exist to study intricate human processes, and CAARE will work to see that they are used instead of torturing animals.
Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research (CAARE), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, established to highlight and promote research without animals.
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