Israeli scientists claim that by using only oxygen, they have successfully reversed the biological aging process.
A recent study conducted by Tel Aviv University professor Shai Efrati and a team at Shamir Medical Center showed that when healthy adults over 64 were placed in a pressurized chamber and given pure oxygen for 90 minutes a day, five days a week and within three months, the aging process not only slowed down, but actually changed in the opposite direction.
In particular, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Aging focused on whether this oxygen enrichment process could reverse two key indicators of biological aging: the contraction of DNA telomeres and the accumulation of senescent cells in tissues. Telomeres are located at the ends of a chromosome, consist of repeating sequences of non-coding DNA, and serve as caps to protect the chromosome from damage during replication.
Each time replication occurs, these bumpers take a hit, making the chromosomes shorter and shorter. Once the telomere reaches a certain length, the cell can no longer replicate, which leads to aging: malfunctioning of cells, which ultimately leads to cognitive or other age-related impairments and even diseases such as cancer.
About 35 adults over the age of 64 took part in the study and applied hyperbaric oxygen therapy, using 100% oxygen at an ambient pressure greater than one absolute atmosphere to increase the amount of oxygen dissolved in body tissues.
Every 20 minutes, participants were asked to remove their masks for five minutes, returning oxygen to normal levels.
However, during this period, the researchers saw that fluctuations in free oxygen concentration were interpreted at the cellular level as a lack of oxygen – rather than interpreting the absolute level of oxygen.
In other words, repeated intermittent hyperoxic (increased oxygen levels) exposure induced many of the mediators and cellular mechanisms that are usually induced during hypoxia (low oxygen levels). Dr. Efrati calls this the hyperoxic-hypoxic paradox.
“The fluctuations in the oxygen level that we have created is what matters,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “During this process, there is, as it were, a lack of oxygen, which causes cell regeneration.”
The practical consequences of therapy include increased attention, processing speed, and executive function, which tend to decrease with age and about which more than 50% of people over the age of 60 express concern.
According to the study, the changes were equivalent to having the participants’ bodies at the cellular level go back 25 years.
“We’re not [just] slowing aging – we’re moving back in time,” says Dr. Efrati. Efrati has been studying aging for ten years and runs Aviva clinics in Florida. The study, he said, is evidence that the cellular basis of the aging process can be reversed, adding that it “offers hope and opens up the opportunity for many young scientists to target aging as a reversible disease.”
It could also allow doctors and scientists to find a way to control telomere length and develop drugs to help them grow again when needed. But will it make people live longer?
The duration of the effect has yet to be determined in the long term, says Efrati. But “probably yes.” We know people with shorter telomeres die earlier, so that makes sense.”
At the moment, the only drawback of the study is the limited sample size, that is, so far relatively few people have participated in the experiment, but over time, scientists will solve this problem too.