Scientists have discovered an anti-ageing gene often found in people who live to be more than 100 years old, potentially offering a chance to treat sufferers of heart failure and even prevent the disease.
Researchers from the University of Bristol and the MultiMedica Group in Italy discovered that the gene can protect cells collected from patients with heart failures who require a heart transplant.
They made the astonishing discovery when they saw that administering the anti-ageing gene to middle aged mice halted the decay of heart function.
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They also found that when the gene was given to the elderly rodents, whose hearts mimic the same alteration seen in elderly patients, the gene wound back the heart's biological clock age by the human equivalent of more than 10 years.
Professor James Leiper, associate medical director of the Bristol Heart Institute at the University of Bristol, said that while the research was in its early stages, it could be used to prevent people from developing heart failure in the first place.
He added: “We all want to know the secrets of ageing and how we might slow down age-related disease.
"Our heart function declines with age but this research has extraordinarily revealed that a variant of a gene that is commonly found in long-lived people can halt and even reverse ageing of the heart in mice."
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Professor Paolo Madeddu, the Bristol Heart Institute's professor of experimental cardiovascular medicine, said that their findings seem to confirm that adding the healthy mutant gene can reverse the decline of heart performance in elderly people.
“We are now interested in determining if giving the protein instead of the gene can also work.
"Gene therapy is widely used to treat diseases caused by bad genes. However, a treatment based on a protein is safer and more viable than gene therapy."
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