Samara Khan ‘19
The process of human aging is generally considered to be inevitable. As we become older, the collagen and elastin in our skin breaks down, causing fine lines and wrinkles to form. Our bodies stop producing melanin, and our hair turns gray and eventually falls out. While there are many cosmetic products that can improve the appearance of sagging skin and thinning hair, there has never been a treatment to completely reverse the presence of wrinkles and hair loss.
In an unprecedented study, Dr. Keshav Singh and his team at the University of Alabama in Birmingham have completely reversed the signs of aging in mice. In order to do this, the researchers induced a mutation in a nuclear gene that affects mitochondrial function using the antibiotic doxycycline. This mutation caused a decrease in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which in turn, reduced the number of functioning mitochondria in the cells of the mice. In just four weeks, the mice with this mutation showed graying hair, visible hair loss, and increased lethargy. After eight weeks, the mice showed inflamed, wrinkled skin, as well as malfunctioning hair follicles. At this stage, the mice also showed an increase in age associated markers in cells, which is similar in nature to human senescence. When the researchers reversed the doxycycline induced mutation, thereby increasing levels of mtDNA, mitochondrial functioning was restored. Singh and his team observed not only a stop to the increasing levels of wrinkles and hair loss, but a full and complete reversal of these pathologies. After this reversal, the mice were found to be no different than mice who had not undergone the mutation.
This study provides future researchers with an opportunity to develop both preventative and therapeutic strategies that target mitochondrial DNA levels in the body. This could be valuable not only in treating signs of aging, but also in other diseases where mitochondrial dysfunction plays a significant role.
- B. Sing, et. al., Reversing wrinkled skin and hair loss in mice by restoring mictochondrial function. Cell Death & Disease 9, 735 (2018). doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41419-018-0765-9
- Image retrieved from: https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/find-a-program-or-service/dermatology/aging-skin