Aging is still an inevitable fact of life, but maybe not for much longer.
While it may be a little premature to declare the search for the elixir of youth over, a remarkable milestone in the quest to abolish death and aging may have just been reached. According to a new study in the journal Science, a vitamin called nicotinamide riboside (NR) has the capacity to stimulate the regeneration of lost muscle tissue in elderly mice, while also increasing their lifespan.
Speaking about this apparent breakthrough, lead researcher Johan Auwerx explained that “this work could have very important implications in the field of regenerative medicine,” adding that it may one day be possible to bypass surgery and repair the body with a dietary supplement.
Like all other animals, as we go through life we constantly lose cells through a process called senescence, also known as cell death. However, rather than simply wasting away, our bodies replenish these cells by stimulating stem cells to develop and specialize.
As a consequence of our mortal nature, though, this ability to regenerate slowly decreases over time, resulting in our ultimate demise. Scientists interested in overcoming the finiteness of human life are therefore forever looking for ways to kick-start this process once it begins to slow down, and an international group of researchers may have now solved at least one piece of the puzzle.
According to the team, the key appears to lie in our mitochondria. Often referred to as the “powerhouse” of our cells, these small organelles generate the energy required for a wide variety of cellular processes. The development of stem cells into specialized cells, for instance, relies on energy produced by mitochondria.