Scientists rejuvenate old human cells and make them function like young cells

In what may be the Holy Grail of medicine, scientists have been able to successfully rejuvenate old human cells, not only making them look physically younger, but also making them behave like young cells and start dividing.

Researchers from University of Exeter in the UK worked with senescent (ageing) cells, that had stopped dividing and within hours of the treatment the older cells started to divide. They also had longer telomeres – the caps on the chromosomes which shorten with age.

Using earlier findings as a foundation, which showed that a class of genes called splicing factors are progressively switched off with age, the study found that splicing factors could be switched back on with chemicals, making senescent cells not only look physically younger, but start to behave more like young cells and start dividing.

Researchers used compounds known as reversatrol analogues, chemicals based on a substance naturally found in red wine, dark chocolate, red grapes and blueberries, to cells in culture.

The chemicals caused splicing factors, which switch off with age to be switched back on.

Within hours, the cells looked younger and started to rejuvenate, behaving like young cells and dividing.

According to commentators, the research published in the journal BMC Cell Biology could potentially lead to therapies which could help people age better, without experiencing some of the degenerative effects of getting old.

''When I saw some of the cells in the culture dish rejuvenating I couldn't believe it. These old cells were looking like young cells. It was like magic,'' researcher Dr Eva Latorre said, University of Exeter reported. ''I repeated the experiments several times and in each case the cells rejuvenated. I am very excited by the implications and potential for this research.''

''This demonstrates that when you treat old cells with molecules that restore the levels of the splicing factors, the cells regain some features of youth,'' team leader professor Lorna Harries said.