Sometimes the i surprises me, and not in a good way. Thursday had an article that made me roll my eyes.
‘Scientists reverse the signs of ageing in mice’ Sounds interesting, no? A bit misleading in the opening sentence though, which also has a distinctly tabloid feel to it. ‘Elixir of youth treatments that prevent ageing could be on the horizon…’ etc etc. Apparently if you can remove senescent cells (senescent is science-babble for old and knackered), it’s possible extend the life of mice by up to 35%.
Personally, I’m not too worried about living longer than nature intended, but fortunately this study does not offer that possibility.
First up, the mice were genetically engineered to include a ‘suicide gene’ that can be triggered in senescent cells when activated by a particular drug. Hard to see how this can be applied to humans, so the ‘on the horizon’ idea is a load of old socks.
Then we come to the real clincher, the deal-breaker. Only some senescent cells are affected. And though the mice lived longer, there was no change in motor performance, muscle strength, or memory. It seems to me that those are pretty important things to maintain, otherwise your extra 30 years of life are going to be lived in a state of feeble confusion. Not too much of a bargain, is it?
I’ll let my immune system deal with the senescent cells as nature intended and take my chances.
Then we have something that isn’t the newspaper’s fault, just a report about the National Academies of Science in the US. Apparently the NAS recommend that the current three parent IVF techniques should be limited only to male embryos. There’s a reason for this, concern over the possible transfer of female mitochondrial DNA into future generations. It’s a valid concern, I suppose, but not one shared by the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority or by the Department of Health.
I think I’ve gone on sufficiently about my uneasiness with IVF in general, and the three parent IVF field is one I find even more unsettling. However, it’s legal, so no point in railing against it. But if you choose only male embryos, then you’re effectively selectively discriminating against female embryos, and that’s wrong. It just is.