Genetics

Updated 19 December 2016

Gene manipulation reverses ageing in mice

A Californian study indicates that aging may not have to proceed in one single direction and that it may be reversed.

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In what sounds like a sci-fi movie come true, researchers say they used gene manipulation to counter ageing in mice.

No human studies yet

Using a process called cellular reprogramming, the scientists said they also made human skin cells appear and act young again in a laboratory dish.

"Our study shows that aging may not have to proceed in one single direction," said study senior author Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte. He's a professor in the gene expression laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California.

"It has plasticity and, with careful modulation, ageing might be reversed," Izpisua Belmonte said in an institute news release.

Read: Anti-ageing breakthrough

Of course, more research is needed to confirm the findings in mice. And the results of animal studies often fail to be duplicated in humans.

"Obviously, mice are not humans and we know it will be much more complex to rejuvenate a person," Izpisua Belmonte said.

Therapies still long way off

The researchers said they triggered "expression" of genes normally associated with an embryonic state for short periods of time. In this way, they said, they reversed the effects of ageing.

Read: Protect ageing skin

Using this approach, the researchers said they also rejuvenated mice with a premature ageing disease, increasing their lifespan by 30 percent.

The paper was published in the journal Cell.

The researchers said the study offers new insight into cellular causes of ageing and might point to new ways to improve people's health and longevity.

However, any potential therapies that might result from this early stage research could take up to 10 years before the start of clinical trials, the study authors said.

Read more:

Healthy lifestyle fights ageing

Exercise guards against ageing

Baby foreskins vs. ageing

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