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Erasmus MC researchers reverse aging

Erasmus MC researchers have found a way to turn back aging. They have published their spectacular discovery in the leading scientific journal Cell.

By giving old mice a substance developed by the researchers, the mice became fitter and more alert, their coat of fur became fuller again, and their organ function improved. verjonging door het therapeutisch verwijderen van senescente cellenThe substance is a peptide that disrupts the binding between two proteins.

Researchers had previously already found a way to slow down aging. "But turning back time proved to be very difficult", says Peter de Keizer, a researcher of aging at Erasmus MC's department of Molecular Genetics and major participant in this study. This discovery can help in further studies on healthy aging and how people can become healthier once they have ailments. Moreover, it appears to work well for certain end stage cancers and helps in the search for treatments for these cancers.  

Key player in the study is Proxofim (FOXO4-DRI), a substance developed by the researchers themselves. It disrupts the binding between the proteins FOXO4 and p53 . In contrast to existing substances used by researcher to intervene with aging, this substance was found to have no adverse effects on the health of the mice. "The platelet count and the liver function, for example, remained normal." 

Senescent cells
Proxofim tackles cells that play a role in aging. These are called senescent cells, and are cells that have ceased to divide but are not really dead. "In fact, their metabolism does continue, which means that they continue to secrete all kinds of proteins, including inflammatory cytokines. These in turn cause more rapid aging of tissues and poorer organ function.. They also play a role in cancer. The senescent cells make cancer less sensitive to chemotherapy and can accelerate the growth of tumors.  'In other words, we actually want to get rid of these cells", says De Keizer.

Proxofim kills these senescent cells. "And it stimulates the surrounding stem cells to create new tissue. It is a peptide, a small protein that can easily penetrates into cells." It had a huge effect in mice. After three weeks their running wheel activity increased  two to three times, their organ function improved, and after ten days their coat of fur became fuller again."

Clinical trials
The researchers have only tested Proxofim on mice, but would like to start clinical trials. "We first want to investigate the safety and efficacy further. We then hope to expand the study to patients with aggressive forms of cancer within one to two years, and then eventually to study geriatric ailments. We do not seek eternal life, but a longer life without ailments and in excellent health would be great."  

See the press release

Date published: 23 March 2017.

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