Genetically reprogramming cells could reverse the aging process

American researchers claim that aging is not at all an irreversible process and that new genetic therapies could lead to discovering the elixir of youth, writes theguardian.com.

Wrinkles, gray hair and joint pains are inevitable problems as we age, but scientists from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, conducted a study on laboratory mice and found out that aging may be reversible.

“This study shows that aging does not have to go in one direction. Through genetic reprogramming, the aging process could be reversed”, said Juan Carlos Belmonte Izpisua, the author of the study.

Of course, given that the study was conducted on mice, scientists are not sure that the same effects of rejuvenation will be available to humans, but they are optimistic about the results and hope that in less than 10 years will begin the tests on humans.

However, they pointed out that aging does not have a full cure, but rather could be slowed down by new therapies that alter the individual’s biological clock, extending life expectancy.

In these experiments, which lasted for six weeks, scientists have reprogrammed skin cells of mice suffering from Progeria (a genetic disease is manifested by premature aging) to behave like stem cells such as embryonic ones.

At the end of the study, rats who underwent these procedures looked younger, their heart functioned better and lived 30% longer than those who received no treatment.

Researchers have known for some time that these genes, widely known as Yamanaka factors, can turn adult cells and bring them into the stage of stem cells, from where they can grow in any part of the body. They feared that this process might trigger conditions such as cancer.

Now, however, they discovered that the technique does not cause dangerous side effects and if it would work similarly in humans, life expectancy could exceed 100 years.

“By this treatment, any type of cell can be reprogrammed to act as stem cells found in the embryo. By altering genetic factors, the cells seem to rejuvenate and divide more quickly, like young cells”, says Wolf Reik, professor at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge.

The research was recently published in the scientific journal Cell.

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