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Reversed Aging Is Close, Geneticist Says

Process works on mice and has moved on to a spaniel
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2019 5:00 PM CST
George Church, in his Harvard Medical School lab, displays DNA sequence data in 2008.   (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)

(Newser) – So far, aging has been reversed only in mice. We'll know soon if the process works for spaniels. In less than 20 years, George Church figures, it could be available to humans. The geneticist works with 100 or so scientists in a Harvard Medical School lab to make that happen, CBS reports. Church's lab also is working on eliminating genetic diseases and making humans immune to all viruses. These projects aren't unrealistic, he says. "Aging reversal is something that's been proven about eight different ways in animals," Church, 65, said. The process doesn't involve gene editing. Instead, genes are added. "The gene function is going down," he said, "and so we're boosting it back up by putting in extra copies of the genes." Genes were added to the mice to improve heart and kidney function, as well as blood sugar levels.

At Tufts University, a pilot program will attempt to treat the spaniel, Shadow, with gene therapy for a type of heart disease. A research group at the University of Pennsylvania also is working on gene therapy for dogs, per the Wall Street Journal. Among projects across the country, some are trying to learn about aging in humans from the dogs, while others are treating dogs with therapies that have been used in humans. "That veterinary product might be a couple years away," Church said, "and then that takes another 10 years to get through the human clinical trials." (Gene editing within the body to treat disease has taken "a first step.")

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