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Is there really a fountain of youth?

Created date

May 24th, 2011

People are living longer, but surprisingly little is known about the complex human aging process. Now, researchers from the Salk Institute s Gene Expression Laboratory in La Jolla, Calif., are finding out more by studying aging-related disease in the laboratory. In particular, skin cells taken from patients with progeria, a very rare aging disease that affects children, were analyzed. Ultimately, the researchers were able to successfully reprogram these cells into normal healthy cells. The scientists hope to apply this research to help progeria victims, who typically age at eight to ten times the normal rate and rarely live beyond age 13. In addition, the findings may help discover how the human aging process works and provide solutions for age-related disease. Lithium a magic potion? Researchers in Germany and Japan have found an association between low concentrations of lithium and an increased life expectancy in humans. Lithium is a trace element found mainly in vegetables and drinking water. In much larger doses, it is used as a medication for people with bipolar disorder and works by decreasing abnormal brain activity. For these studies, the scientists examined the impact of lithium in a concentration regularly found in ordinary tap water. In 18 adjacent Japanese municipalities, the amount of lithium in the tap water was measured. Mortality rates were found to be considerably lower in those municipalities with greater amounts of lithium in the drinking water. Previous studies have shown that a higher amount of lithium in drinking water may be associated with improved psychological well-being and with decreased suicide rates. The scientists say that low-dose lithium might be used as a dietary supplement in the future, but more studies are necessary to evaluate its effects.