Researchers have found a way to protect a mouse’s DNA from the damage that comes with aging, and they’re ready to test it in people.
Dr. David Sinclair, from Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues reveal their new findings in the latest issue of Science. They focused on an intriguing compound with anti-aging properties called NAD+, short for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. It’s been known that younger mice had more of it than older mice and back in 2013, the researchers found that when they boosted the NAD+ levels in older mice, they looked, biologically, like much younger animals.
In the latest paper, the scientists revealed new details on how NAD+ works to keep cells young. Sinclair put drops of NAD+ into the water of a group of mice, and within a couple of hours, their NAD+ levels started to rise. Within the first week, the scientists saw obvious age reversal in muscle and improvements in DNA repair. “We can’t tell the difference between the tissues from an old mouse that is two years old versus a young mouse that is three to four months old,” Sinclair says.
The reason they think NAD+ has these effects is because the compound is linked to DNA repair functions in the body. Each time cells divide, DNA copies itself—but it’s not always a perfect process, and errors are sometimes introduced, causing damage to the DNA. (Exposure to certain chemicals, environmental pollutants and medical radiation from CT scans can also damage DNA.) Normally, most of these insults can be repaired, as long as there’s enough of the a DNA-repair compound, called PARP1.