September 09, 2019
We may not have time-traveling machines (yet), but it may be possible to turn back time on your body's biological clock, a new study reports.
Three medications – one growth hormone and two diabetes medications – taken together over a year decreased the age for participants' epigenetic clock, which is scientists' way of measuring a person's biological age. The results of the study published in Nature.
Researchers stumbled upon this finding while studying the thymus gland, which is located in the chest. The thymus is responsible for maturing T cells — which are important to the immune system's ability to fight off infection and diseases. The gland begins to shrink after puberty and tissue becomes replaced with fat.
Researchers had been attempting to increase tissue in the thymus gland by giving 10 healthy male adults, ages 51 to 65, the growth hormone and diabetic medications, in order to offset diabetic side effects from the hormone.
Scientists found after a year of treatment that healthy thymus tissue replaced the fat cells in the thymus in seven of the 10 participants and their immune systems showed signs of rejuvenation. They also found that participants epigenetic clock decreased in age by 2.5 years — and it didn't stop there. The effects lasted six months after the treatment had ended.
As exciting as these findings are, researchers were quick to caution that the study is preliminary, and the trial size was small and not well controlled. This is the first study to show the possibility in decreasing the age of the body's epigenetic clock.