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Making old arteries young again

Created date

June 26th, 2014
human arteries graphic
human arteries graphic

Researchers have discovered an antioxidant that might reverse the signs of aging in arteries.

Antioxidants work by combatting oxidative stress—a process that leads to damaged cells and tissues throughout the body. Oxidative stress occurs throughout life, but the body becomes less able to repair itself as it ages. 

Arteries show their age in the endothelium—a layer of cells that serves as a blood vessel lining. The endothelium is responsible for helping arteries dilate when necessary, such as when more blood flow is needed to the heart. The lack of the ability for blood vessels to dilate is one problem that makes people more susceptible to heart disease.

The laboratory-manufactured antioxidant, called MitoQ, was given to elderly mice (about the equivalent of 70-to 80-year-old people). After about a month, the arteries of the mice functioned just as well as much younger mice that were the equivalent age of 25-to 35-year-old humans. The researchers think that MitoQ has a positive effect on the endothelium, making it more flexible again.

This finding means that in the future, humans may be able to take antioxidant supplements that target a specific disease process or that have a preventive effect. Scientists say that more research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of such antioxidants in humans.