The genes of people who live to be over the age of 100 could one day help others stay heart-healthy for longer, according to some exciting new research.
A team of British and Italian researchers has found that a specific mutated gene in so-called "superagers" who make it into their centenarian years could be used to help those with heart failure turn back the clock by ten years, as detailed in a groundbreaking study published in the journal Cardiovascular Research.
Building on the discovery of the longevity-associated gene variant known as BPIFB4 in 2018, the researchers conducted experiments on human cells in test tubes and later on mice to see if the genes were still able to turn back the biological clock when introduced in a lab instead of being inherited.
Incredibly, they found that its introduction to damaged cells can both halt and even reverse heart aging.
"The cells of the elderly patients, in particular those that support the construction of new blood vessels, called 'pericytes', were found to be less performing and more aged," said Monica Cattaneo, a researcher at the MultiMedica Group in Italy and co-author, in a press release.
"By adding the longevity gene/protein to the test tube, we observed a process of cardiac rejuvenation: the cardiac cells of elderly heart failure patients have resumed functioning properly, proving to be more efficient in building new blood vessels," Cattaneo added.
The researchers also found that those same cells seemed to have reduced expression of BPIFB4 as well. In other words, people who tend to develop heart problems may actually be missing this key longevity protein.
As University of Bristol professor and co-author Paolo Madedu notes, these findings suggest that introducing a protein to the cells of patients with heart problems may be an alternative to gene therapy, which, in spite of being a promising branch of medical treatment, still carries a number of associated risks, including the potential of developing cancer.
"Our findings confirm the healthy mutant gene can reverse the decline of heart performance in older people," Madedu said in the press release. "We are now interested in determining if giving the protein instead of the gene can also work."
Obviously, this kind of potential treatment will take many years to perfect — but regardless, this could be a huge win in the war against heart disease.
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