By undoing the changes in gene activity that are brought about by daily life, scientists have begun to slow, and even reverse, ageing.
The scientists tweaked genes that turn adult cells back into embryoniclike ones in mice and have resounding success extending their lives. The changes included the reversal of mouse and human cells in vitro, extending the life of a mouse with an accelerated-aging condition and successfully promoting recovery from an injury in a middle-aged mouse.
The research is continuing at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
“Aging is something plastic that we can manipulate,” says Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, the study’s senior author and an expert in gene expression at Salk. In their study they rejuvenated cells by briefly turning on four genes that have the capacity to convert adult cells back into an embryoniclike state.
“I do think that epigenetic reprogramming is the ultimate way to reverse aging,” says David Sinclair, a Harvard University geneticist and anti-aging researcher who was not involved in the study but is doing similar work.
Matt Kaeberlein, a molecular biologist at the University of Washington who studies aging but was not part of the work, suggests it may be possible not just to slow aging but to actually reverse it. “That’s really exciting—that means that even in elderly people it may be possible to restore youthful function,” he says.
The molecular biology community continues to buzz and our life expectancies keep extending. This is an exciting tim to be alive.