Aging of Lab Grown Human Cells Successfully Reversed by New Compounds

Scientists have successfully reversed the aging of human cells in lab conditions. The research could provide answers about how to treat age-related disease. 
Jessica Miley

While there is still a long way to go yet, scientists have just published a paper where they explain how they have successfully reversed the age of human cells. The new research from the University of Exeter could be the basis of future anti-degeneration drugs and treatments. 

Aging is a natural process that occurs in all humans as cells decline. One scientific explanation for aging relates to the accumulation of "senescent" cells in tissues and organs. 

Aged cells can also put healthy cells at risk

Senescent cells are classified as cells that are not older and deteriorated but also compromise the function of cells around them. Studies in animals have shown that the removal of these particular cells can improve some of the effects of aging; including delaying the onset of cataracts. 

Although it isn’t exactly clear how cells become senescent, there are many strong theories that suggest, damage to DNA or damage to the protective molecules at the end of the chromosomes called the telomeres could be factors. 

A more recent theory suggests that our ability to turn genes on and off at the right time and in the right place is a driver for the accumulation of senescence cells. Every cell in our bodies contains all the information needed for life, but not all genes are ‘switched on’ in all tissues. 

For example, a heart cell has different genes switched on than that of a kidney cell.  Research has shown that 95 percent of our genes can actually make several different types of messages, depending on the needs of the cell. 

So essentially our bodies can make whatever we need any time, the decision about what type of messages to send is made by a group of roughly 300 proteins called "splicing factors". However, as we age the number of splicing factors the body produce declines. 

Aged cells lose ability to respond to environmental changes

Aged cells lose their ability to switch genes on and off to respond to changes in their environment. The latest research from the UK based scientists focused on ways to increase the amount of splicing factors. 

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The researchers experimented with releasing small amounts of hydrogen sulfide onto old cells, which worked to increase levels of some splicing factors, and to rejuvenate old human cells. Hydrogen sulfide is a naturally occurring molecule in our bodies, however, it can be toxic in large quantities. 

In order to overcome accidentally poisoning the cells, the researchers developed a method of highly accurate delivery. By using a 'molecular postcode’ the scientists could deliver tiny amounts of the hydrogen sulfide directly to the structures of the cells that produce energy, called the mitochondria. 

While there is much more research to be done, this initial study provides the foundation for further anti-aging research to be done that could in the future help to treat age-related diseases.

The new research was published in the journal Aging.

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