The key to eternal youth and elongated life could lie right inside your skull, with scientists discovering a region of the brain that can slow down the ageing process in mice. Could an 'eternal youth' wonder drug soon be on the way?
Researchers at the University of Southern California's Davis School of Gerontology have found a region of the brain — a signalling pathway in the hypothalamus — that can slow down or speed up the ageing process in mice.
Their lifespans and youthfulness were extended by about 20 per cent by blocking a specific protein complex and injecting the mice's brain with the gonadotropin-releasing hormone GnRH.
The hypothalamus controls functions like growth, reproduction and metabolism, so it's not an outlandish leap to think it could also regulate ageing. It's not confirmed that this function carries over to humans, but if it does, the results could be groundbreaking. Injecting GnRH not only slowed physical ageing, but cognitive decline as well, by encouraging neuron regeneration. This would be great for degenerative conditions like Alzheimers and dementia, or possibly for brain injuries suffered in sports.
It's still not known exactly how ageing works, scientifically. Whether it's a bunch of individual changes throughout your body, or if there's one main trigger point telling the rest of your body to get old, according to Livescience. So this could be just one piece of a much larger cosmos of anti-aging science.
To that end, researchers at Johns Hopkins have been working on a solution that could revert cells all the way back to the state they were in the day you were born. But given these results, there should be plenty more research down this path.
Naturally, there are a lot more factors to keeping humans looking young and fabulous than you see in mice, such as wrinkles and saggy skin. Collagen and elastin in the skin break down over time, and it's possible that wouldn't be related to the brain. Similarly, the liver spots prominent on the elderly are simply caused by a buildup of melanin over time. So even if you manage to lock down eternal youth, you'll have to keep out of the sun to stay pretty. Either that, or force the 46-year old actress Halle Berry to spill her secrets.
The hypothalamus region of the brain.