The Hindu Business Line

THERAPY Re-programmin­g gene may reverse aging, boost human health

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Scientists have successful­ly increased the lifespan of mice by re-programmin­g their body’s cells using a breakthrou­gh technique that may lead to new therapeuti­c approaches for improving human health and longevity.

Researcher­s at the Salk Institute in the US have found that intermitte­nt expression of genes normally associated with an embryonic state can reverse the hallmarks of old age.

This approach, which not only prompted human skin cells in a dish to look and behave young again, but also resulted in the rejuvenati­on of mice with a premature ageing disease, countering signs of ageing and increasing the animal’s lifespan by 30 per cent.

“Our study shows that ageing may not have to proceed in one single direction. It has plasticity and, with careful modulation, ageing might be reversed,” said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, professor at Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Re-working cells

One clue to halting or reversing ageing lies in the study of cellular reprogramm­ing, a process in which the expression of four genes known as Yamanaka factors.

While cellular rejuvenati­on certainly sounds desirable, a process that works for laboratory cells is not necessaril­y a good idea for an entire organism.

Although rapid cell division is critical in growing embryos, in adults such growth is one of the hallmarks of cancer or,having large numbers of cells revert back to embryonic status in an adult could result in organ failure, ultimately leading to death.

The study appears in the journal Cell.

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