Will we one day be able to Benjamin Button ourselves?

A hospice nurse visits an elderly patient. (Getty Images)

A hospice nurse visits an elderly patient. (Getty Images)

Is age really just a number? According to a recent study in California, it may be possible to reverse the process of aging. However, as Tech Explorist notes, it’s too early to get excited about tapping into the fountain of youth; the trial was small and did not include a control arm, so scientists stress that its findings are preliminary.

Nine healthy volunteers were given three drugs — two diabetes medications and a growth hormone — for a year. When researchers analyzed the subjects’ genomes, they found that they had aged in reverse, losing an average of 2.5 years off of their biological ages. (Biological age, also known as the epigenetic clock, represents a person’s health status. In a “normal,” healthy person, the biological age should theoretically be identical to one’s chronological age.)

The subjects also experienced a rejuvenation of their immune systems. “I’d expected to see slowing down of the clock, but not a reversal,” geneticist Steve Horvath told the publication. “That felt kind of futuristic.”

“This told me that the biological effect of the treatment was robust,” he added. “What’s more, the effect persisted in the six participants who provided a final blood sample six months after stopping the trial. Because we could follow the changes within each individual, and because the effect was so very strong in each of them, I am optimistic.”

However, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done. Scientists will next test the results with more people in a controlled study that includes different age groups, ethnicities and genders.

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