Turning Back the Clock

Imagine if we could turn back the clock on age-related illnesses by reprogramming our cells to be younger?

In a recent Nature Aging paper, Genentech and Salk Institute scientists show that cellular reprogramming techniques safely delayed or reversed some of the biological and physiological consequences of aging in mice. This discovery helps bring us closer to preventing or reversing age-related diseases in humans. The study was led by Genentech’s Henri Jasper and Kristen Browder, Salk’s Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, and their teams.

The inspiration for this research began in 2007, when Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and team showed that turning on four genes that are silenced in mature cells could turn them back into pluripotent stem cells – immature cells that have the potential to become any type of cell. Since this Nobel Prize-winning discovery, scientists have explored if they can use this approach to maintain or restore the healthy function of certain tissues in the body.

It turns out they could – at least in animals. Using mice that are genetically prone to age rapidly, scientists out of the Salk Institute reprogrammed cells to become more youthful by introducing Yamanaka’s four genes, which erased genetic marks of stress that caused aging in these cells. The treated mice showed fewer signs of rapid aging and had longer lifespans than untreated mice.

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