In what sounds like a sci-fi movie come true, researchers say they used gene manipulation to counter aging in mice.
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, Calif.
“It has plasticity and, with careful modulation, aging might be reversed,” Izpisua Belmonte said in an institute news release.
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.
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 aging.
Using this approach, the researchers said they also rejuvenated mice with a premature aging disease, increasing their lifespan by 30 percent.
The paper was published in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Cell.
The researchers said the study offers new insight into cellular causes of aging 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.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers healthy aging resources.