Fountain-of-Youth Gene Enhances Healing in Adults

By Breanna Draxler | November 7, 2013 12:36 pm

healing-woundYoung animals heal and regenerate their tissue better than adults—that’s why, for instance, younger people’s recovery times for surgery are dramatically shorter than older people’s. Scientists since Darwin have tried, and failed, to figure out this apparent fountain of youth, but new research suggests a gene called Lin28a could be the key.

Lin28a has been known to regulate the speed of young animals’ development. The gene is highly active in animals’ earliest stages—a frog tadpole, for example, or a human fetus—but then declines with age. By the time an animal is mature, the gene is pretty much dormant. Researchers thus wanted to know if reactivating this gene could restore regenerative abilities in adult animals.

Genetic Fountain of Youth

In tests with adult mice, the results were promising: reactivating the fountain-of-youth gene improved the mice’s hair growth after shaving, and enhanced their tissue repair after ear and paw injuries. As reported in the Daily Mail,

Lin28a achieved all of these effects by increasing the production of several metabolic enzymes and enhancing metabolic processes that are normally more active in embryos.

If the results, published today in Cell, carry over into humans, the researchers think reactivating the gene could speed up post-operation healing processes. And further down the road, a drug could perhaps elicit the same response. As one of the researchers said in a release,

“It sounds like science fiction, but Lin28a could be part of a healing cocktail that gives adults the superior tissue repair seen in juveniles.”

Image credit: Chepko Danil Vitalevich/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: aging, genetics
  • Arttai

    Must be some side effects we still don’t know about when activating the gene. No miracles. Otherwise natural selection would have kept this gene active.

    • Margo R. W. Winter

      You could be right…on the other hand, maybe natural selection is leading us to the scientists who will learn how to reactivate the gene….

    • Ramond Gonzalaz

      Actually not really natural selection wouldn’t try and keep a species alive beyond breeding age.The most efficient thing for natural selection to do is allow survival till breeding age than the individual can die out.There are very few species who are nearly immortal or invincible except the very simple.Complex creatures are just not meant to live very long.

    • JennyHill02

      But what if there were some natural way to induce this gene back into action? It would seem as if that wouldn’t be against natural selection, as well as entirely within the realm of possible.

      • WilliamDirk

        There is nothing to say it’s impossible that we could naturally re-engage this part of our physiology. In fact, I think there is plenty of reason to believe it.

      • ClevelandKF

        There is in fact research being done to this end, Jenny. What’s interesting is that it’s more for the induction of stem cells inside the body. Involving natural substances that kick in the regenerative potential of our cells. I suggest reading up on Rongxiang Xu.

        • JennyHill02

          It seems like it should be getting more coverage, if that were the case. Especially if his research is taking place in California.

          I’ll certainly be reading more.

        • WilliamDirk

          I did some reading up into some of his focus. This seems like a better method as Arttai’s due caution and concern is that re-activated gene’s effects could run rampant and be near impossible to keep under control.

          • WilliamDirk

            It’s probably be easier to monitor and increment a stimulus than deactivate a gene…

    • Chandler09

      Not necessarily, arttai. We have toyed with gene therapy, some efforts being more successful than others. There is not always a side effect. Especially if you consider the dormancy of this gene could be a side effect of diets, environment or a myriad of other physiological affecting facts.

    • Rich W

      Ruling this out without more information doesn’t seem wise. Where we can find more information though?

  • donniagw595

    My Uncle Micah just got
    a nice six month old BMW M4 Coupe only from working part-time online. his
    response w­w­w.B­I­G­29.c­o­m

  • Chandler09

    Exactly, Nathan. If what we’re after is only the effect of healing, wouldn’t it be possible to even create methods of only ‘temporarily’ reactivating the gene to minimize long term side-effects?

  • paul vlachos

    In all living creatures including humans, is an activating enzyme that is re-triggered, the negatively charged bacteria is only one way to activate this gene. Mental cermonies where elements of the earth are included.


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