L-carnosine (AKA Carnosine), a naturally occurring combination of two amino acids, was discovered in Russia in the early 1900s. Because much of the pioneering research was done in Russia, it was largely unavailable to the rest of the world until a number of studies and experiments in other parts of the world began verifying those studies — and more.
Most notably, there were a series of astonishing experiments done in Australia that proved that carnosine rejuvenates cells as they approach senescence (the stage just before death where a cell is still alive, but essentially non-functional).
The studies showed that cells cultured with carnosine lived longer and retained their youthful appearance and growth patterns.
What’s probably the most exciting result of the studies is that it was discovered that carnosine can actually reverse the signs of aging in senescent cells.
How to Reverse Aging in Cells
In one study, when scientists transferred senescent cells to a culture medium containing carnosine, those cells exhibited a rejuvenated appearance and often an enhanced capacity to divide. When they transferred the cells back to a medium lacking carnosine, the signs of senescence quickly reappeared.
As they switched the cells back and forth several times between the culture media, they consistently observed that the carnosine medium restored the juvenile cell phenotype within days, whereas the standard culture medium brought back the senescent cell phenotype. In addition, the carnosine medium increased cell life span — even for old cells. When the researchers took old cells that had already gone through 55 divisions and transferred them to the carnosine medium, they survived up to 70 divisions, compared to only 57 to 61 divisions for the cells that were not transferred.
This represents an increase in the number of cell divisions for each cell of almost 25%.
But in terms of cell life, the increase was an astounding 300%. The cells transferred to the carnosine medium attained a life span of 413 days, compared to just 126 to 139 days for the control cells.
A Russian study on mice subsequently showed that mice given carnosine are twice as likely to reach their maximum lifespan as untreated mice.3,4 Carnosine also significantly reduces the outward “signs of old age.”
In effect, it makes the mice look younger. 44% of the carnosine treated mice had young, glossy coats in old age as opposed to only 5% in the untreated mice. This represents 900% better odds of looking young in old age.
Another important difference between the treated and the untreated mice was in their behavior. Only 9% of the untreated mice behaved youthfully in old age, versus 58% of the carnosine treated mice. That’s a 600% improvement in how they felt.
Protein Modification for Longevity
As I said, aging is associated with damage to cellular proteins. But carnosine protects cellular proteins from damage in at least two ways.
Carnosine bonds with the carbonyl (or aldehyde) groups that if left alone will attack and bind with proteins.
It works as an antioxidant to prevent the formation of oxidized sugars, also called Advanced Glycosylation End-products or AGEs for short. That’s really the caramelization thing that I mentioned earlier. The bottom line here is that the less AGEs, in your body, the younger you are.
Both of these processes have important implications for anti-aging therapy. The key is that carnosine not only prevents damaging cross-links from forming, it eliminates cross-links that have previously formed in proteins, thus restoring normal membrane function in cells.
Carnosine helps control blood glucose
A recent study found that there is evidence that the release of carnosine from skeletal muscle during physical exercise affects autonomic neurotransmission and physiological functions. In particular, carnosine positively impacts the activity of sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves that supply energy to the adrenal glands, liver, kidney, pancreas, stomach, and white and brown fat tissues, thereby causing beneficial changes in blood pressure, blood glucose, appetite, lipolysis, and the thermogenic burning of fat. In summary, carnosine lowers elevated blood sugar levels, improves insulin production and sensitivity, and promotes the loss of weight and body fat. And if this were not enough, studies have shown that people who are diabetic or even pre-diabetic have lower-than-normal carnosine levels in both their muscle and brain cells — levels about 63% below normal, which is similar to levels found in people in their 70’s.
The bottom line is that in addition to its life extension benefits, L-carnosine is beginning to emerge as an indispensible supplement for diabetics. It not only helps control primary factors in the onset of diabetes, but it also protects against diabetic echo effects such as organ protein degradation, loss of kidney function, damage to the eyes, neuropathy, and cardiovascular damage — not to mention actually helping the heart muscle contract more efficiently.
Carnosine Protects Against the Side Effects of Chemotherapy
The protective effects of carnosine in mouse bone marrow cells against damage to their genetic structure caused by the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide were reported in the April issue of Cell Biochemistry and Function. In the study, mice were injected with solutions of carnosine at different doses for five consecutive days. On the fifth day of treatment, mice were injected with the highly toxic chemotherapy drug, cyclophosphamide. Blood cells and bone marrow were then examined. Carnosine significantly reduced both damage to blood cells and bone marrow toxicity normally induced by cyclophosphamide. It appears that the antioxidant capabilities of carnosine reduced the oxidative stress and genotoxicity induced by the chemotherapy drug.
In addition, cancer researchers are starting to identify how carnosine’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities may not only play a chemoprotective role, but actually help protect against cancer itself. How? First, as just mentioned in the paragraph above, carnosine helps block DNA damage that can lead to transformation of healthy cells into malignant cells. In addition, it has demonstrated a significant ability to both inhibit tumor growth as well as the metastasis of existing cancers.
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