TEL AVIV, Israel — What would you do to stop the hands of time? As scientists continue to work at slowing the aging process, a team in Israel says the answer may be as simple as taking a deep breath. In a groundbreaking clinical trial, researchers from Tel Aviv University reveal hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOT) can stop the blood cells from aging in healthy adults.
Their study finds specific treatments using high-pressure oxygen in a pressure chamber can actually make the cells grow younger. Specifically, the three-month experiment stopped each patient’s telomeres from getting shorter. These protective caps on the end of chromosomes normally get shorter as humans age. The treatments also reversed the accumulation of old and malfunctioning cells.
When looking at blood samples containing DNA in the group’s immune cells, researchers discovered telomeres grew by up to 38 percent and the number of aging cells had decreased by 37 percent.
“For many years our team has been engaged in hyperbaric research and therapy – treatments based on protocols of exposure to high-pressure oxygen at various concentrations inside a pressure chamber,” Professor Shai Efrati explains in a university release.
“Our achievements over the years included the improvement of brain functions damaged by age, stroke or brain injury. In the current study we wished to examine the impact of HBOT on healthy and independent aging adults, and to discover whether such treatments can slow down, stop or even reverse the normal aging process at the cellular level,” the founder and director of the Sagol Center of Hyperbaric Medicine adds.
Discovering the ‘Holy Grail’ of aging
Thirty-five healthy adults over the age of 64 participated in the hyperbaric trial, undergoing 60 sessions in 90 days. Researchers took blood samples before, during, and after the completion of the experiment. They also collected additional samples from the patients after more time had passed to see how the treatments held up.
Their findings confirm that high-pressure oxygen therapy is a more effective way of stopping and reversing the aging process than standard lifestyle adjustments. Telomeres in the study group increased in length by between 20 and 38 percent during the 90 days. The presence of senescent cells in the body dropped by between 11 and 37 percent.
“Today telomere shortening is considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of the biology of aging,” Prof. Efrati says. “Researchers around the world are trying to develop pharmacological and environmental interventions that enable telomere elongation. Our HBOT protocol was able to achieve this, proving that the aging process can in fact be reversed at the basic cellular-molecular level.”
“Until now, interventions such as lifestyle modifications and intense exercise were shown to have some inhibiting effect on telomere shortening,” study author Dr. Amir Hadanny adds. “But in our study, only three months of HBOT were able to elongate telomeres at rates far beyond any currently available interventions or lifestyle modifications. With this pioneering study, we have opened a door for further research on the cellular impact of HBOT and its potential for reversing the aging process.”
The study appears in the journal Aging.