Rejuvenation of Woman's Skin Could Tackle Diseases of Ageing

20 April, 2022
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Rejuvenation of Woman's Skin Could Tackle Diseases of Ageing

Researchers have rejuvenated a 53-year-old woman's skin cells so they are the equivalent of a 23-year-old's.

The eventual aim is to develop treatments for age-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and neurological disorders.

The technology is built on the techniques used to create Dolly the cloned sheep more than 25 years ago.

The head of the team, Prof Wolf Reik, of the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, told BBC News that he hoped that the technique could eventually be used to keep people healthier for longer as they grow older.

Prof Reich stressed though that the work, which has been published in the journal eLife, was at a very early stage. He said that there were several scientific issues to overcome before it could move out of his lab and into the clinic. But he said that demonstrating for the first time that cell rejuvenation is possible was a critical step forward.

The origins of the technique stem from the 1990s, when researchers at the Roslin Institute just outside Edinburgh developed a method of turning an adult mammary gland cell taken from a sheep into an embryo. It led to the creation of Dolly the cloned sheep.

The Roslin team's aim was not to create clones of sheep or indeed humans, but to use the technique to create so-called human embryonic stem cells. These, they hoped, could be grown into specific tissues, such as muscle, cartilage, and nerve cells to replace worn-out body parts.

The Dolly technique was made simpler in 2006 by Prof Shinya Yamanaka, then at Kyoto University. The new method, called IPS, involved adding chemicals to adult cells for around 50 days. This resulted in genetic changes that turned the adult cells into stem cells.

In both the Dolly and IPS techniques, the stem cells created need to be regrown into the cells and tissues the patient requires. This has proved difficult and despite decades of effort, the use of stem cells to treat diseases is currently extremely limited.

Prof Reik's team used the IPS technique on 53-year-old skin cells. But they cut short the chemical bath from 50 days to around 12. Dr Dilgeet Gill was astonished to find that the cells had not turned into embryonic stem cells - but had rejuvenated into skin cells that looked and behaved as if they came from a 23-year old.

He said: "I remember the day I got the results back and I didn't quite believe that some of the cells were 30 years younger than they were supposed to be. It was a very exciting day!"

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