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UC Scientists Discover Drug Makes Brains, Bodies Young Again

BERKELEY (CBS SF)-- Imagine a drug that could make your aging mind and body young again. It sounds like the fountain of youth.

Researchers at UC Berkeley have discovered a small-molecule drug that does just that to the aging brains and muscles in older mice. They hope their findings will lead to a drug that does the same thing for humans.

Their findings were published in the journal Oncotarget.

In mice, as in humans, stem cell function declines with age. The drug interferes with the growth factor, TGF-beta1 that keeps those stem cells from regenerating.

By inhibiting TGF-beta1, researchers were able to enhance neurogenesis and muscle regeneration in 24-month-old laboratory mice, the age equivalent of 80-year-old humans.

If humans were to respond the same way, age-related degeneration such as loss of agility, mobility, memory, learning and independence could be treatable.

The small-molecule drug is already being used in trials as an anticancer agent. Researchers say it holds a lot of promise when when used on stem cells, because it can regenerate both the mind and the body.

"You can simultaneously improve tissue repair and maintenance repair in completely different organs, muscle and brain," said UC scientist Irina Conboy.

She and her colleagues caution this new drug "is only a first step toward a therapy, since other biochemical cues also regulate adult stem cell activity."

"The challenge ahead is to carefully retune the various signaling pathways in the stem cell environment, using a small number of chemicals, so that we end up recalibrating the environment to be youth-like," Conboy said. "Dosage is going to be the key to rejuvenating the stem cell environment."

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