By Fergal MacErlean •
Published: 08 Apr 2022 • 13:35
While findings are still in the early stages, they could revolutionise regenerative medicine, especially if it can be replicated in other cell types, other than skin cells, SkyNews reports on Friday, April 8.
The scientists at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge believe that they can do the same thing with other tissues in the body and make cells – not just skin cells – 30 years younger.
The big – groundbreaking – aim of the research is to develop treatments for age-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and neurological disorders.
The technology is built on the techniques used to create Dolly the cloned sheep more than 25 years ago.
Head of the Cambridge team, Professor Wolf Reik, told BBC News that he hoped that the technique could one day be used to keep people healthier for a longer period of time as they age.
“We have been dreaming about this kind of thing. Many common diseases get worse with age and to think about helping people in this way is super exciting,” he said.
Prof Reich has stressed that the work, published in the journal eLife, was at a very early stage.
But he said that demonstrating for the first time that cell rejuvenation is possible was a critical step forward.
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.
“The fact that we also saw a reverse of ageing indicators in genes associated with diseases is particularly promising for the future of this work.”
The research uses a 2006-developed method, called IPS, which involves adding chemicals to adult cells for around 50 days. This resulted in genetic changes that turned the adult cells into stem cells.
In both the Dolly and IPS techniques, the stem cells created need to be regrown into the cells and tissues the patient requires. This has proved difficult and the use of stem cells to treat diseases remains currently extremely limited.
Prof Reik’s team used the IPS technique on 53-year-old skin cells. But they cut short the chemical bath from 50 days to around 12.
Dr Dilgeet Gill was astonished to find that the cells had not turned into embryonic stem cells – but had rejuvenated into skin cells that looked and behaved as if they came from a 23-year old.
He said: “I remember the day I got the results back and I didn’t quite believe that some of the cells were 30 years younger than they were supposed to be. It was a very exciting day!”
For the near future the technique cannot be translated to the clinic because the IPS method increases the risk of cancers.
But Prof Reik told the BBC he is confident that now it was known that it is possible to rejuvenate cells, his team could find an alternative, safer method.
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Originally from Dublin, Fergal is based on the eastern Costa del Sol and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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