An experimental gene therapy recently tested on mice at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre found that by modifying a non-replicating virus to trigger production of an enzyme that repairs chromosomes, scientists were able to slow down cellular aging in the mice by up to 24 percent.

The study, published this month in the scientific journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, is the first of its kind. Prior anti-aging techniques had been tested only on creatures that had been genetically modified before birth, but this new therapy goes to work directly on a healthy, living subject's genes.

Mice treated at 2-years-old saw their lifespans increase by up to 15 percent, but scientists said that mice treated at 1-year-old saw the most benefit, with lifespans that lasted up to 24 percent longer.

"In addition to living longer, engineered mice had stronger bones, improved metabolic functions, better motor coordination and balance, as well as improved performance in object-recognition tests," research director Bruno Bernardes de Jesus said in the study's executive summary.

"This work provides an important first proof-of-principle that telomerase gene therapy is a feasible and potentially safe approach to improve the healthy lifespan of older organisms," Utz Herbig, assistant professor at the New Jersey Medical School-University Hospital Cancer Center, explained in an analysis published by EMBO Molecular Medicine. "One of the next steps will be to investigate if similar results can be obtained for other mammals that live significantly longer than mice."

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(H/T: Live Science)