Technology & Science

Conference hears of ways to repair aging bodies, restore health

International doctors and scientists met in Edmonton Friday to discuss how to repair the damage of aging.

International doctors and scientists met in Edmonton Friday to discuss how to repair the damage of aging.

The aging symposium looks at the types of damage that accumulate with age, what can be done to slow or repair it, as well as future therapies. Othersessions look at the economic costs to society of aging.

As millions of baby boomers worldwide approach their senior years, there is no better time to get the word out about new ways to live longer, said Kevin Perrott, a biomechanical engineer who is organizing the meeting.

"We are approaching what I've heard called as a silver tsunami," said Perrott. "We're really going to have a tough time trying to deal with them from a health-care perspective."

Prof. Tarak El-Bialy of the University of Alberta's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry showed theultrasound and stem cell treatment he has developed to regenerate teeth and dental tissue, to help prevent gummy smiles in aging boomers.

"Hopefully we're going to provide hope that the teeth can grow back," said El-Bialy, who has tested the technique on people who needed to get their teeth pulled.

The treatment, called low-intensity pulsed ultrasound, massages the gums to stimulate jaws, encourage growth in the roots of teeth and aid healing in dental tissue.

Regeneration potential

El-Bialy isn't the only one at the conference who is searching for ways to grow new body parts, such as organs.

Prof. Ellen Heber-Katz of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Penn., specializes in the body's ability to regenerate.

While carrying outan unrelated experiment on immunity, her research team noticed a strain of mice that rapidly closed holes punched in their earswithout any scarring. The holes were punched to identify mice more easily over time.

Heber-Katz's lab is now trying to identify how the healing takes place, and identify the genes involved in the trait.

If researchers can harness the approach and apply it to humans then full body regeneration could become a reality in about 50 years, said Perrott. He presented highlights of research on the Methuselah Mouse Prize.

Thescientific competition is designed to draw attention to theability ofnew technologies to slowand evenreverse the damageofthe aging process.

The symposium ends on Saturday.