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New study could hold key to ‘elixir of life’

Researchers at Stanford University School have developed a new procedure to increase the length of telomeres by as much as 10 percent

Published: Updated:

Scientists in the United States have successfully carried out an experiment transforming old human cells into young ones, bringing researchers closer to treatments for age-related diseases and potentially the ingredients to the mythical “elixir of life.”

Researchers at the School of Medicine at Stanford University School have developed a new procedure to increase the length of telomeres, protective but perishable caps on the ends of chromosomes that keep DNA in a healthy state.

The U.S. researchers claim their technique extends telomeres and thus extends human life as well as protect the human body from age-related diseases.

“In young humans, telomeres are about 8,000-10,000 nucleotides long. They shorten with each cell division, however, and when they reach a critical length the cell stops dividing or dies,” a report on the study posted on the Stanford University website said.

“This internal ‘clock’ makes it difficult to keep most cells growing in a laboratory for more than a few cell doublings,” the report said.

The researchers delivered a modified RNA that “encodes a telomere-extending protein to cultured human cells” and extended the telomere, according to the report.

“Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,” said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University.

“This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing or disease modeling,” Blau added.
The implications of the experiment may have far-reaching impact for human medicine.

“This new approach paves the way toward preventing or treating diseases of aging,” said Blau.

“There are also highly debilitating genetic diseases associated with telomere shortening that could benefit from such a potential treatment,” Blau said.

“One day it may be possible to target muscle stem cells in a patient with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, for example, to extend their telomeres.

There are also implications for treating conditions of aging, such as diabetes and heart disease.

This has really opened the doors to consider all types of potential uses of this therapy.”