Posted on Nov 24, 2020, 6 p.m.
Scientists led by Tel Aviv University’s Professor Shai Efrati with a team from Shamir Medical Center claim to have successfully reversed the biological aging process using only oxygen, their findings have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Aging.
According to the team when healthy adults over the age of 64 were placed in a pressurized chamber and given pure oxygen for 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 3 months, the aging process was found to be not only delayed but was reversed.
The report describes how the study was focused on whether the process could reverse 2 key indicators of biological aging: the shortening of telomeres and the accumulation of the resultant zombie senescent cells.
Telomeres are like a protective end cap on chromosomes that are made of repetitive sequences of non-coding DNA serving to protect the chromosome from damage during replications. During each replication, telomeres take a hit which makes them get shorter every time, once it reaches a certain length a cell is not able to replicate anymore leading to senescent cells. These zombie cells are aging, malfunctioning cells that can damage tissues around them and ultimately lead to cognitive or other age-related diseases and disabilities.
Over 35 adults aged 64+ were involved in this study who were administered (HBOT) hyperbaric oxygen therapy utilizing 100% oxygen in an environmental pressure higher than one absolute atmosphere to enhance the amount of oxygen dissolved in the body’s tissues. Participants removed their masks for five minutes every 20 minutes to bring their oxygen levels back to normal levels. During this period fluctuation was observed in the free oxygen concentration that were interpreted at the cellular level as a lack of oxygen rather than interpreting the absolute level of oxygen. In more simple terms, the repeated intermittent hyperoxic increased oxygen level exposures induced many of the mediators and cellular mechanisms that are typically induced during hypoxia decreased oxygen levels, Professor Efrati called this the hyperoxic-hypoxic paradox.
“The oxygen fluctuation we generated is what is important,” said Efrati. “During this process, a state of oxygen shortage resulted, which caused cell regeneration.” “We are not [just] slowing the decline - we are going backwards in time.”
According to the researchers, practical ramifications include improvements in attention, information processing speed, and executive functions that normally decline with aging that over 50% of people over the age of 60 express concerns about; changes in the study are suggested to be the equivalent to how participant bodies were at the cellular level 25 years earlier.
Professor Efrati runs the Aviv Clinic in Florida and says that this study proved proof that the cellular basis for the aging process can be reversed, and adds that it also “gives hope and opens the door for a lot of young scientists to target aging as a reversible disease.” Their findings may enable scientists to discover a way to monitor telomere length and develop medications to help regenerate these protective end caps.
However, the duration of these effects is yet to be determined over the long term and the study was limited by its sample size. Additionally, it was noted that this experiment was conducted using a scientifically monitored HBOT chamber and that people should not try to replicate this on their own.
Efrati said that “There is a lot of junk out there” claiming sacs inflated with air are hyperbaric treatments. “This is not what is being used in the studies, it is not effective – and moreover, it could be dangerous.”
Will this treatment make people live longer? This has yet to be determined, it might, as we know that those with shorter telomeres die earlier, so it does make sense, but more research is needed to determine if it will. Here’s to hoping that future research yields positive results.
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Image Credit: AVIV Clinic- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber at Aviv Clinic in Florida