From The Times – Friday November 20 2020
“Scientists say they have reversed two of the biological hallmarks of ageing by giving people oxygen therapy in a pressurised chamber.
As people grow older their bodies tend to accumulate what are known as senescent or “zombie” cells. These secrete damaging chemicals as they accumulate in the body, usually as people enter their sixties.
Senescent cells have been linked to many of the chronic conditions associated with old age, including arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and dementia.
Ageing also shows itself through the shortening of pieces of DNA found at the tips of the chromosomes that carry genetic information inside cells.
These protective regions of DNA, known as telomeres, are often likened to the plastic caps attached to the ends of shoelaces to prevent them unraveling. Longer telomeres are thought to guard against some illnesses.
The new study involved 35 people over the age of 64 who were given pure oxygen to breath through a mask for 90 minutes while they lay inside a pressurised hyperbaric chamber. They underwent five sessions a week for three months. Blood samples were collected before the treatments, at the 30th and 60th session, and two weeks after they had ended.
The scientists behind the experiment reported that the hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) had resulted in longer telomeres and fewer senescent cells. Telomere length increased by 20 per cent. Exercise has also been found to slow telomere shortening, but not to the same extent, they said. The therapy lowered levels of senescent cells by as much as 37 per cent. The results were published in the journal Aging.
“We have now uncovered for the first time in humans HBOT’s biological effects at the cellular level in healthy ageing adults,” Shai Efrati, an associate professor at Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University, said. “The significant improvement of telomere length shown during and after these unique HBOT protocols provides the scientific community with a new foundation of understanding that ageing can, indeed, be targeted and reversed at the basic cellular-biological level.”
Amir Hadanny, chief medical research officer at the Sagol Centre for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel, said: “Until now, interventions such as lifestyle modifications and intense exercise were shown to have some inhibition effect on the expected telomere length shortening. However, what is remarkable to note in our study is that in just three months of therapy, we were able to achieve such significant telomere elongation — at rates far beyond any of the current available interventions or lifestyle modifications.”
Last year scientists at the Mayo Clinic, one of America’s leading research facilities, were able to use a cocktail of drugs to flush senescent cells from the body for the first time, in a trial that raised hopes that the technique could one day be used to reverse the frailty of old age. The researchers behind that work have suggested that it may ultimately be possible to delay, prevent and alleviate age-related diseases as a group, instead of going after them one at a time.”