15 December 2015

Will methylene inhibit premature aging?

Methylene Blue against rare genetic disease and aging symptoms

Sergey Syrov, XX2 CENTURY 

Progeria is a rare genetic disease in which the normal aging process is accelerated. Symptoms of the disease usually appear during the first years of life and most patients do not live to adolescence.

A new work by scientists at the University of Maryland (Safe, Inexpensive Chemical Found to Reverse Symptoms of Progeria in Human Cells) suggests that a ubiquitous, inexpensive, safe chemical – methylene blue – may be effective for the treatment of progeria. It is also likely that it can counteract the external manifestations of normal aging. It was shown for the first time that small doses of methylene blue almost completely eliminate defects in the cells of patients with progeria, as well as eliminate age-related damage to healthy cells. The study was published online in the journal Aging Cell on December 10 (Xiong et al., Methylene blue allocates nuclear and mitochondrial abnormalities in progeria).

"We tried very hard to study the effect of methylene blue on all known symptoms of progeria inside the cell," said Kan Cao, senior author of the study. – Methylene blue seems to save every damaged structure inside the cell. When we looked at the treated cells, it was hard to believe that they were damaged by progeria. It's like magic."

Progeria develops due to a defect in one gene. This gene produces the protein lamin A, which is located inside the cell nucleus, under the nuclear membrane, and is necessary for normal cell division. The lack of this protein causes deformation of the nucleus, which makes it impossible for the normal functioning of the cell.

Deformed and defective mitochondria are also observed in cells with progeria. Although damage to mitochondria in cells with progeria has been known before, the new study is the first document that describes in detail the nature and extent of damage. It turned out that most mitochondria in cells with progeria swell and fragment, losing, like the nucleus, the ability to function properly.

Kan Cao's team found that methylene blue completely eliminates both types of damage – both mitochondria and the nucleus. The exact mechanism of action of the chemical is still unclear, but the progeria cells treated with it are almost indistinguishable from normal ones.

The researchers also tested the effect of methylene blue on healthy cells. It turned out that the chemical eliminates some of the symptoms of cellular aging. With normal aging, the function of mitochondria deteriorates, old mitochondria resemble those observed in cells with progeria. And methylene blue eliminates these damages.

"We repeated the experiments many times and did not see a single failure," notes Zheng–Mei Xiong, lead author of the study. – This is an exciting result with huge potential, both in the treatment of progeria and anti-aging. Methylene blue is ubiquitous and inexpensive. It is a completely water-soluble and non-toxic substance. People use it to treat fish ponds because it is safe for caviar." (Methylene blue is used in industrial fish farming and aquariums as an antiseptic and antimycotic agent, it is also believed that it contributes to the normalization of tissue respiration of fish and is effective in eliminating the symptoms of poisoning of fish with cyanides and nitrates. – Approx. XX2 CENTURY).

Methylene blue can eliminate cellular defects that eventually lead to all the symptoms seen in patients with progeria. Presumably, it can be used as a medicine to treat this disease. It is also likely that with its help it is possible to eliminate the symptoms of the normal aging process.

The research team is preparing for the next important step: testing on animal models.

"So far we have been doing all our work on stem cell lines. It is extremely important to check whether the effect will spread to the whole animal," explains Cao. – We also want to see if methylene blue can restore the effects of progeria in various types of cells, such as cells of bones, skin, cardiovascular system and others. Then it will be possible to start clinical trials on humans. It's very exciting."

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