A landmark study from researchers in Israel has found that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) reverses two key biological signs of aging in humans – the first study to ever make this finding. The research shows it’s possible to target and reverse the aging process at the basic cellular-biological level.
This breakthrough in biology of aging research provides scientists a new foundation for investigating ways to slow the aging process.
Published in the peer-reviewed journal Aging, the study involved patients aged 64 and older who went through a series of HBOT treatments. Blood tests taken over the course of the study showed hyperbaric oxygen treatment reversed two common signs of biological aging – a shortening of telomeres on chromosomes and the accumulation of senescent cells.
The significance of this is difficult to overstate. Telomeres are nucleotide sequences that protect the ends of chromosomes from deterioration or fusion with other chromosomes. A shortening in their length of about 20 to 40 bases per year is associated with serious life-threatening illnesses. Stopping and reversing telomere shortening has long been considered a key to slowing biological aging.
Senescent cells inhibit cell proliferation. The accumulation of senescence cells contributes to age-associated conditions and illnesses. Eliminating them can reverse those conditions and illnesses, according to past animal studies.
The “Holy Grail” of the Biology of Aging
The new study is part of an ongoing comprehensive aging research program in Israel. A previous study, released earlier in 2020, showed that HBOT also improves cognitive function.
“After dedicating our HBOT research to exploring its impact on the areas of brain functionality and age-related cognitive decline, we have now uncovered for the first time in humans HBOT’s biological effects at the cellular level in healthy aging adults,” Dr. Shai Efrati, director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center and a co-author on the study, said in a news release.
Efrati called telomere shortening “the ‘Holy Grail’ of the biology of aging” and noted that researchers are exploring many pharmacological and environmental interventions in the hope of enabling telomere elongation.
“The significant improvement of telomere length shown during and after these unique HBOT protocols provides the scientific community with a new foundation of understanding that aging can, indeed, be targeted and reversed at the basic cellular-biological level,” said Efrati, who also holds an associate professor position at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University.
How The Study Was Conducted
Efrati co-authored the study with Dr. Amir Hadanny, Chief Medical Research Officer of The Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research. The two focused on testing the impact of HBOT on telomere length and senescent cell concentrations in a non-pathological, aging adult population.
Efrati and Hadanny conducted the prospective trial with 35 healthy, independent adults. None of the patients made any changes to their lifestyle, diet or medication during the study. Each received 60 daily HBOT sessions over the course of 90 days.
Whole blood samples were collected before treatment and again at the 30th and 60th session. Their blood was checked again one to two weeks following the last HBOT session to assess peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PMBCs) telomere length and senescence.
The study found that certain HBOT protocols induced regenerative effects. Some telomeres increased by more than 20% in length, while senescent cells decreased in number by as much as 37%.
Dr. Hadanny said the pioneering study has “opened the door for further research on the prolonged cellular impact of HBOT to reverse the aging process.” He said that up until the study, only lifestyle modifications and intense exercise showed the ability to slow telomere length shortening.
“What is remarkable to note in our study is that in just three months of HBOT, we were able to achieve such significant telomere elongation – at rates far beyond any of the current available interventions or lifestyle modifications,” said Dr. Hadanny.
People in Florida can already take advantage of the effects of HBOT. Dr. Efrati is medical advisor to Aviv Scientific LTD, which offers HBOT treatments, cognitive and physical training and nutritional coaching to enhance brain and body performance at the Aviv Clinic at the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood in The Villages. Aviv also plans to open a clinic in 2021 in Dubai, U.A.E.