Scientists are turning back the clock: progress in cellular rejuvenation

Scientists are turning back the clock: progress in cellular rejuvenation

According to scientists, people born after 2000 will live an average of 100 years. Moreover, their health in their declining years will be much stronger than that of modern old people. How will this happen?

Humanity is struggling with aging from the moment people realized their mortality. But, neither proper nutrition, nor sport, nor miraculous creams and tablets can cancel the processes that occur at the cellular level.

However, a study by scientists at Stanford University, published in Nature Communications, proves that cells can be “restarted”, eliminating the “bugs” accumulated over many years.

An embryonic cell is a structure that, as the fetus develops, can turn into a microscopic piece of the eye, liver, or skin. Her fate is determined by chemical labels attached to the epigenome – a system of proteins that packs DNA. Thanks to these labels, only the most necessary genes become available to each type of cell, the rest are blocked.

In the process of aging, the marking begins to junk, like the engine of a car with high mileage. Therefore, the cell has problems with turning the necessary genes on and off, which means that our body wears out and breaks down.

A scientist from Kyoto University, Shinya Yamanaka, realized that this process can be reversed by acting on cells using a set of four transcription factors – agents that activate genes.

The reprogramming phenomenon was first demonstrated by John Gerdon, who in 1962 showed that differentiated somatic cells can be reprogrammed back to the embryonic state.

In 2012, Shinya Yamanaka received the Nobel Prize in medicine for research that allows you to “roll back” the cell to the “factory settings” – the initial, embryonic state.

However, blindly acting on a living organism is like trying to repair a watch with a hammer. Losing their properties, cells can no longer perform the usual functions. From the structural components of the heart, kidneys and skin, they turn into useless particles. In addition, uncontrolled exposure to Yamanaka factors causes rapid cell growth, while experimental mice die from cancer.

Therefore, scientists set a new goal – to learn how to reprogram cells without erasing their identity. A team of researchers from Stanford found that Yamanaka factors operate in two stages:

First, scientists return the epigenic to the level at which the traces of aging disappear, and only then “roll back” the cells to “factory settings”.

Scientists removed cartilage cells from patients with osteoarthrosis, a disease characteristic of older people. When exposed to a low dose of Yamanaka factors, the cells really rejuvenated, retaining their properties. The same effect was achieved in relation to depleted muscle cells.

Of course, today we are talking about experiments on individual cells and experimental animals. However, such studies give hope that sooner or later human rejuvenation methods will be available to humanity. And even if they cannot defeat death, then at least they will allow it to be postponed.

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