Is reversing brain aging possible? A group of researchers at Stanford University in the United States may have discovered how to accomplish this task and restore mental acuity. The novelty was described in a study published last Wednesday (20), in nature.
In research led by the professor of neurology Katrin Andreasson, scientists discovered a method capable of reversing mental aging in elderly rats, assuming that inflammation is responsible for the process that makes cells age. Human cells were also used in laboratory tests.
As explained by the Californian institution, biologists theorize that reducing such inflammation would slow down the entire aging process, also delaying the appearance of age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, some types of cancer and heart problems, for example. Even body frailty and cognitive decline could be delayed.
The key to this would be blocking the process that leads certain immune cells to accelerate inflammation in the body. And that’s what the Stanford researchers were able to do, a finding that could lead to the recovery of mental abilities in the elderly, with the use of medication, if confirmed.
According to the study, a type of immune cell called myeloid, found in the brain, peripheral tissues of the body and circulatory system, is linked to aging. In addition to fighting off body invaders and cleaning up dead cells and other debris, it supplies nutrients to other cells and monitors pathogens.
But over time, myeloids come into accelerated activity and extrapolate their normal protective functions, causing inflammation and collateral tissue damage. Knowing this, the researchers blocked the interaction between a specific hormone (PGE2) and an abundant receptor in them (EP2), preventing the initiation of inflammatory activities.
This simple block was enough to “restore juvenile metabolism and the placid temperament of human and mouse myeloid cells,” leading to the reversal of age-related mental decline in older rats, according to Andreasson.
As a result, the procedure allowed restoring the memory and spatial orientation abilities of the tested mice to levels comparable to those presented by younger animals.
Human testing: the next step
Scientists have tested two experimental drugs in an attempt to block the PGE2-EP2 interaction and slow cell aging. Only one of them was effective in the task, even though it did not penetrate the blood-brain barrier, demonstrating that the research may be promising.
Despite this, they are still far from conducting clinical studies with humans, not least because these compounds have not been approved for testing in people, due to the chance of presenting toxic side effects.
One of the possibilities is that they serve as a basis for the production of other safer drugs for future tests on humans, in an attempt to verify whether the reversal of brain aging is also possible in men.
If confirmed, the method could one day be used to develop innovative drugs capable of delaying or even reversing conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, among other diseases that arise as age advances.