Want to live a little longer in your life, well there’s good news for you as a treatment that could turn back the ravages of time is edging closer as scientists have discovered how to ‘reprogram’ cells to stop them growing old.
The process involves taking skin cells and making them partly revert to how they were in the embryo. Mature mice that underwent the process were found to appear younger, had better functioning hearts and lived 30 per cent longer. Translated to humans it would mean – potentially, at least – the average human lifespan would reach 108.
The technique involves reprogramming cells, which the researchers say could help people live nearly a third longer, without the blemishes of age such as wrinkled skin, grey hair and aches and pains.
How will it work?
The researchers discovered that halting or reversing ageing may lie in cellular reprogramming. This is a process in which the expression of four genes, known as the Yamanaka factors, is induced, allowing scientists to convert any cell into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
Like embryonic stem cells, iPSCs are capable of dividing indefinitely and becoming any cell type present in our body. The researchers found that when cellular reprogramming was induced, cells looked and acted younger.
Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, author of the study, said: ‘Our study shows that aging may not have to proceed in one single direction.
‘It has plasticity and, with careful modulation, aging might be reversed.’
Professor Belmonte, of the Salk Institute in California, explained that the cell is reprogrammed by altering genetic factors that change it to become like a stem cell – ‘universal’ cells present in the embryo that can transform into any cell in the body.
Alejandro Ocampo, first author of the paper, said: ‘What we and other stem-cell labs have observed is that when you induce cellular reprogramming, cells look younger. The team used DNA reprogramming methods in live mice with progeria, the premature ageing disease progeria, which also affects humans.
Compared to untreated mice, the reprogrammed mice looked younger.
Their cardiovascular and other organ function improved and – most surprising of all – they lived 30 percent longer, yet did not develop cancer. The process also worked in normal, disease-free mice which experienced improvement in the regeneration capacity of the pancreas and muscle tissue.
Professor Belmonte said: ‘Obviously, mice are not humans and we know it will be much more complex to rejuvenate a person.
‘But this study shows that ageing is a very dynamic and plastic process, and therefore will be more amenable to therapeutic interventions than what we previously thought.’
He said it could be 10 years before a clinical trial is ready to take place in humans. Comments your thoughts what will you do if you get 30 percent extra life span.