Humans don’t like getting older. In fact, the worldwide anti-aging market is currently worth about 56 billion dollars. By 2023, experts predict that number will grow to 66 billion . Indeed, as a population we have been obsessed with staying “forever young”. Finally, scientists may have figured out how to do that. Not by stopping the human aging process- but by reversing it.
What Causes Human Aging? There are many factors that contribute to aging, including: Oxidative stress Glycation: when sugars react with proteins in your skin to create advanced glycation end products (AGEs). This causes wrinkles, sagginess, and loss of radiance . Telomere shortening Side reactions Aggregation of proteins (a hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s) . Etc . Experts have come up with a number of theories to explain exactly why and how the human aging process happens, but it is impossible to come up with an exact reason. There is one common denominator, however, that underlies all of those theories: human aging is a result of a change in molecule structure and hence, function .
Human Aging…Reversed? A Team of scientists in Israel have successfully reversed the human aging process using hyperbaric oxygen chambers. They found that putting subjects in these chambers containing pressurized oxygen provided significant benefits. The researchers believe that the oxygen-based therapy affects two main factors that cause us to lose strength and health as we age: telomeres and senescent cells . Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of your chromosomes that protect them from damage. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres become shorter. This can cause your DNA to become damaged . Senescent cells build up in your body and prevent regeneration. These cells do not divide, nor do they support the tissues they are a part of. In fact, they actually send out chemical signals that encourage surrounding cells to enter into senescence. This can degrade tissue function, increase your levels of chronic inflammation, and can eventually raise your risk of cancer . The scientists from Tel Aviv University may have found the solution to these two problems: oxygen.
Reversing Human Aging with Oxygen For the trial, the researchers placed a number of participants aged 64 and older into individual hyperbaric chambers. Once inside these chambers, they breathed in one hundred percent oxygen through a mask. The patients did this for ninety minutes a day, five days a week, for three months. The researchers found that by giving pure oxygen to these patients, they were able to increase the length of their telomeres and reduce the number of senescent cells by 37 percent. In fact, the scientists were able to return the participants’ telomeres to the length they were 25 years prior . Essentially, this research shows that it is possible to turn back the clock on certain parts of the body. Professor Shai Efrati explained that many experts consider shortening telomeres to be the “holy grail” of the biology of human aging. For this reason, many aging interventions have focused on lengthening them. “The significant improvement of telomere length shown during and after these unique protocols provides the scientific community with a new foundation of understanding that ageing can indeed be targeted and reversed at the basic cellular-biological level,” he said .
Hyperbaric Oxygen and Cognitive Function This is not the first time Efrati has experimented with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). Earlier this year he published research which showed that HBOT can significantly enhance the cognitive performance of healthy older adults. Specifically, the main areas of improvement were attention, information processing speed, executive function, and global cognitive function. All of these typically decline with human aging. Efrati explained that cognitive and functional decline as a result of aging has become a major concern in the Western world. For this reason, a lot of research has gone into improving the cognitive performance of the normal aging population. “In our study, for the first time in humans, we have found an effective and safe medical intervention that can address this unwanted consequence of our age-related deterioration,” he said . How Can You Lengthen Your Telomeres? Most of us don’t have access to hyperbaric oxygen chambers at home. Luckily, there are ways you may be able to lengthen your telomeres without one. Perhaps not surprisingly, living a healthy lifestyle will help lengthen your telomeres, as well as delay shortening. This includes:
Eating a nutritious diet to avoid vitamin deficiencies Getting plenty of physical activity  Quitting smoking Avoiding obesity  Adopting these lifestyle habits can not only reduce the visible signs of aging, but it can also lower your risk for age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and arthritis. Further Research Ahead Dr Amir Hadanny is the chief medical research officer of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research. He says that this study has opened the door for further research on therapies to reverse the human aging process. “After dedicating our research to exploring its impact on the areas of brain functionality and age-related cognitive decline, we have now uncovered, for the first time in humans, biological effects at the cellular level in healthy ageing adults,” he said . With this research underway, maybe we will live to be one thousand after all.