Genetic therapy makes skin cells up to 40 years younger

An Asian woman wearing athletic clothes takes a picture of trees and flowers using her smartphone.Share on Pinterest
A genetic treatment can make skin cells up to 40 years younger, according to the latest proof-of-principle research. Noam Galai / Getty Images
  • Researchers investigated whether they could rejuvenate skin cells using a similar technique behind Dolly the cloned sheep.
  • According to several epigenetic and cellular measurements, they discovered that the technique could make skin cells up to 40 years younger.
  • The study’s authors say their research is proof-of-principle and requires further research before being applied to humans.

Aging is the gradual decline in cell and tissue function over time. it is characterized of various factors including telomere attrition, genetic instability and misfolded proteins.

The progression of some age-related changes can be measured and used for predict age in humans.

Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) reprogramming is a process in which any cell can be transformed into an embryonic stem cell-like state. Embryonic stem cells can be made into any cell. Thus, iPSC can reverse age-related changes, including telomere attrition and oxidative stress.

An early form of the technique was famously used on the “Dolly” sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell in 1996.

However, iPSC reprogramming results in loss of original cell identity and function. Research suggests that short-term iPSC approaches may preserve cell identity and backwards age-related changes in mice.

Understanding whether a partial iPSC reprogramming approach could rejuvenate human cells could help researchers develop new treatments for age-related conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and neurological disorders.

Researchers applied a partial iPSC technique to middle-aged skin cells in a recent study.

According to molecular measurements, they found that the cells grew up to 40 years younger, including DNA methylation clocks and transcriptomes.

“We have shown that by using this technique, we can rejuvenate cells in the laboratory,” said Ines Milagre, Ph.D., of the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, Portugal, one of the study’s authors, Medical news today.

“These cells appear to be more like younger cells, at least in part, in the functions we tested, such as collagen production and in wound healing assays,” she added.

“Here, the authors claim that if they try to make iPSCs from skin but stop the process along the way, they get skin cells with properties similar to skin cells from much younger people,” David J. Cutler, Ph.D. human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine who were not involved in the study MNT.

“Such an astonishing claim requires far more evidence than presented here,” he added.

The study was published in eLife.

The researchers introduced viral vectors to skin cells from three epigenetic donors aged 45, 49 and 55 years for the study. The viral vectors forced the expression of four proteins known as Yamanaka factors that can induce stem cell formation.

However, instead of exposing the cells to the viral vectors for the 50 days required for complete cellular reprogramming, they removed the cells after 10, 13, 15, or 17 days.

When measuring the DNA methylation age of the cells, they found that 10 days of exposure reduced cellular age by 20 years and 17 days of exposure by 40 years.

They reported similar results from other cellular measurements.

They also found that other epigenetic clocks can rejuvenate later in the reprogramming process, suggesting that cellular rejuvenation occurs in stages.

They further noted that after 17 days, cells were likely to enter a “stabilization phase” in which they would no longer retain their original identity.

When asked to comment on the results, Dr. Cutler that epigenetic primordial targets may not reflect how cells behave in the human body.

“The authors claim that the treated skin cells are more reminiscent of a younger person’s skin cells than an older person’s cells,” he said.[However]whether they are closer to a younger or older person is a 50:50 suggestion. “

“There is really little evidence that these cells are really ‘younger’ or would behave like younger cells if they were inserted into a human. [They merely found] that the treated skin cells are more like younger skin cells in the few very strange ways this was measured, ”he explained.

“It is of the utmost importance to state that this is only a proof-of-principle experiment,” stressed Dr. Milagre, “It was done in a dish, in laboratory environments, to see if it was at all possible to rejuvenate cells.”

“The vectors and proteins used in this study can be dangerous for normal cells, as they have the capacity to convert them into cancer cells. This is only the first step and it is very far from a clinical solution,” she said.

Future directions

Asked how these findings could contribute to the treatment of age-related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and neurological disorders, Dr. Cutler:

“This research is far too preliminary and a little too unlikely for it to be taken particularly seriously at present. IPSC research is one of the most important in the medical field. If these techniques really work and are generalizable, they can simplify the process of getting new ‘cells’ to give back to a patient. “

The researchers’ next goal is to see if the technology can also work on other tissues such as muscles, liver and blood cells.

They ultimately hope that their results will contribute to efforts to prolong human health – as opposed to life expectancy – so that people can age healthier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.