Is it possible to cure old age?


Antonio Torres del Cerro |

Paris (EFE).- What if old age was a disease against which it is possible to act? This is the belief of French researcher Jean-Marc Lemaître, who claims to hold the key: cell reprogramming, which his team has already successfully tested on human skin.

“When we say it’s normal to age, that’s how it is. But we can do it by being a little younger to continue doing what we’ve always done in our lives, not having certain deficits and diseases “, he explains in an interview with EFE Lemaître, which published the book “Guérir la Vieillesse” (“Healing old age”).

The director of the French Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Biotherapies (IMRB) is aware of the ethical reluctance vis-à-vis his research, considered by many to be unnatural. But he also knows that his studies meet a social need: how to age better.

The scientist Jean-Marc Lemaitre during the interview. EFE/EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

Because for Lemaître it is not a question of being eternally young, even less of becoming immortal. It is a matter of approaching age-related diseases in a different way. Cure pathologies such as diabetes, osteoarthritis or neurodegenerative diseases by attacking the root of the problem, the aging of cells.

Reprogram cells to rejuvenate

In 2011, he and his team succeeded in showing that it was possible to “rejuvenate” the skin cells of centenarians through reprogramming. It consists of transforming any cell in the body into a pluripotent or embryonic stem cell.

“The advantage of this strategy is precisely to remake a cell that will be able to recompose 220 different types of cells that exist in the body. But you have to guide these cells, it’s a colossal job”, warns Lemaître, who is inspired by the studies of the Japanese Shinya Yamanaka, Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2012.

In the opinion of the Frenchman, to address the relevance of cell therapy which makes it possible to avoid a certain number of diseases, the first thing is to establish whether the chronological age corresponds to the physiological age. That is, if a 50 year old actually lives in the body of a 65 year old.

“It is possible to find out – precisely – with a simple blood test. Once this observation has been made, which results from the lifestyle of the person analyzed (if he is sedentary, if he has a healthy diet, etc.), the doctor can decide whether or not this patient needs a cellular rejuvenation.

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But for that, Lemaître insists on the fact that “old age must first be considered as a disease in itself”. Not an easy task, especially for ethical reasons. “People are imbued with the ghost of immortality, in which God is behind. They instilled in us from childhood that there is a biological limit imposed by nature,” he says.

The boss of the IMRB denounces this mentality which reminds us that we have already questioned what is considered to be the natural course of life. Also that “we have evolved a lot, for example, in life expectancy and we do not question that”.

longevity institute

Lemaître intends to launch an institute dedicated exclusively to Longevity in Montpellier, the city in the south of France where he is already based with his team. The objective is to found a new medicine focused on the aging process.

“In Silicon Valley, it would be easier,” he sighs, referring to other anti-aging treatments heavily funded by American investors, including plasma transfusions.

But he is not resigned. “Today there are still many opportunities,” he says, pointing to the cover of his book, illustrated with the famous face of Botticelli’s Venus, a symbol of freshness and the Italian Renaissance.

Web edition: Belén Mayo


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