February 24, 2005

Gene therapy to target aging related diseases

Betterhumans reports that a significant breakthrough in life extension research has been made by researchers at the University of Virginia--research that could lead to unprecedented forms of therapy that could eliminate mitochondrial diseases and possibly many other aspects of aging.

The so-called "mitochondrial tune up," currently in the early stages of development, would repair mutations that occur in mitochondria that are believed to contribute to many afflictions, from diabetes to heart disease. Mitochondria are the "powerhouses of the cell" and are are also involved in apoptosis, when a "suicide" signal is sent to cells resulting in a number of aging related diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Essentially, therapists would engineer "correct" mitochondrial DNA to fix defects and deliver it through the membrane of the mitochondria via protofection.

In principle, this treatment could move beyond the targeting of individual diseases to the complete replacement of all mitochondrial DNA in a functioning organism. Such a prospect would make it possible that all mitochondrial diseases could be treated with a one-size-fits-all treatment rather than different treatments for different conditions.

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