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Scientists discover new method to reverse ageing in human skill cells by 30 years

Scientists have discovered a way to reverse ageing by 30 years in human skill cells (David Davies/PA)

(Picture: PA Wire)

Scientists have found a way to reverse ageing in skin cells by 30 years, according to a new study published in the journal eLife.

As people age, their cells’ ability to function declines and the genome - DNA blueprint - accumulates marks of ageing.

Researchers said they have been able to partly restore the function of older cells, as well as renew the biological age.

This new method turns the clock back for longer than previous reprogramming methods, and does so without the cells losing their function.

The findings of the study, conducted by the University of Cambridge, could revolutionise regenerative medicine, especially if it can be replicated in other cell types.

Professor Wolf Reik, a group leader in the Epigenetics research programme, said: “This work has very exciting implications.

“Eventually, we may be able to identify genes that rejuvenate without reprogramming, and specifically target those to reduce the effects of ageing.

“This approach holds promise for valuable discoveries that could open up an amazing therapeutic horizon.”

Prof Reik has stressed that the research is at a very early stage, but that demonstrating that cell rejuvenation is possible for the first time is a critical step forward.

The field of regenerative biology aims to understand cellular and molecular differences between regenerating and non-regenerating tissues, and applies these findings to medicine to restore tissue structure and function in damaged tissues.

One of the most important tools in regenerative biology is the ability to create ‘induced’ stem cells.

However, this process wipes the cells of their function and gives them the potential to become any cell type.

The new method, based on the Nobel Prize-winning technique scientists use to make stem cells, overcomes the problem of completely erasing cell identity by stopping reprogramming part of the way through the process.

This allowed researchers to find the balance of making cells younger while still retaining their specialised cell function.

Researchers conducted experiments that simulated a skin wound and found that the partially rejuvenated cells showed signs of behaving more like youthful cells.

Dr Diljeet Gill, a postdoctoral researcher in Prof Reik’s lab at the Babraham Institute, said: “Our results represent a big step forward in our understanding of cell reprogramming.

“We have proved that cells can be rejuvenated without losing their function and that rejuvenation looks to restore some function to old cells.”

According to Dr Gill, researchers also found that ageing indicators in genes associated with diseases were reversed during this method, which he said is particularly promising for the future of this work.

For example, it affected the APBA2 gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease and the MAF gene that has a role in the development of cataracts.

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