The injection manipulates a body’s mitochondria - the sausage-shaped ‘powerhouses’ in every cell of the body (except red blood cells) - which turns the food we eat into energy that can be used by the heart, muscles, brain and other parts of the body. Past research has suggested that mitochondrial deterioration is an important cause of ageing. But attempts to introduce normal genes into mitochondria to replace defective ones have so far failed: Researchers have been unable to transport genes across the mitochondrial membrane into the mitochondria.
But now, Marisol Corral-Debrinski and colleagues at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris have met with some success. The team selected two mitochondrial gene mutations - one that causes muscle weakness and another that causes blindness. They then successfully inserted the normal versions of these genes into diseased cells grown in a lab. Both mutations were reversed.The experiments will now be conducted on rats, and eventually humans may get the ‘elixir of life’.
“It is not a panacea but, if successful, it might potentially correct part of this age-associated damage to mitochondria which might be important in slowing down ageing,” said Professor Patrick Chinnery, a leading British expert on mitochondrial disorders.