Boffins say they have made a breakthrough in the fight against ageing in tests carried out on mice. Scientists have come up with a method to reprogramme body cells in mice in a technique which they say could have major implications in humans in the future.

Earlier tests did manage to create cells which were apparently younger. However, the mice developed tumours and died. However, medics involved in the newest study, carried out at the Salk Institute in America, found that the mice lived around 30 per cent longer than animals who were not treated, and they did not develop tumours. They also said that they had had good results in further tests which were carried out on human cells within the laboratory.

Ageing can go backwards

Professor Izpisua Belmonte said that the new research showed that “ageing may not have to proceed in one single direction. It has plasticity and, with careful modulation, ageing might be reversed.”

The method involves turning cells back into stem cells, which can then develop into any type of cell. However, there are major issues with creating stem cells as they divide quickly, which can increase the chance of adults developing tumours. Another problem is that cells which are needed to ensure the body works properly could be turned into stem cells.

While in other studies, researchers have totally reprogrammed cells, in this latest research, medics changed the way genes were expressed for a short period of time. They have now found that by making temporary changes, it is possible to keep the identity of cells while, at the same time, reversing the hallmarks associated with age.

The most recent study was carried out on rodents with progeria, which makes then prematurely old. The mice who were involved in the age reversal technique lives for just under a third longer than others.

Published by Elizabeth

A journalist from the South West of England, Elizabeth specialises in writing about politics, health and technology.