As people age, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes – called telomeres – shorten, causing DNA to become damaged and cells to stop replicating. At the same time, “zombie” senescent cells build up in the body, preventing regeneration.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University have shown that giving pure oxygen to older people while in a hyperbaric chamber increased the length of their telomeres by 20%, a result that has never been achieved before.
The scientists said the growth may mean that the telomeres of trial participants were now as long as they had been 25 years earlier.
The therapy also reduced senescent cells by up to 37%, making way for new healthy cells to regrow. Animal studies have shown that removing senescent cells extends remaining life by more than one third. The trial included 35 healthy independent adults aged 64 and older who did not undergo any lifestyle, diet or medication adjustments.
Each patient was placed in a hyperbaric chamber for 90 minutes for five days a week over three months while breathing 100% oxygen through a mask. Dr Amir Hadanny, chief medical research officer of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research said: “With this pioneering study, we have opened a door for further research on the prolonged cellular impact of the therapy to reverse the ageing process”.