Scientists One-step Closer to Unlocking Longer Life

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( — February 3, 2015)  — When we getting older, it is actually our cells that grow older and change during the process. Amid stress, polluted environment and the toxins in our body, the cells are trying to adapt to their enviroment. They are changing with every division.

One of the greatest scientific milestones was the discovery and understanding of telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. These telomeres shorten with every division until the cell dies. The shorter the telomeres, the shorter the life of the cell will be. 

Scientists discover that originally human cells, the so called stem cells, carry the primal information and long telomeres. This discovery allowed scientists to develop a very successful stem cells therapy than can treat any disease, including the cancer.

The researchers, however, could not complete most of the studies because laboratory cultivated stem cells are very fragile and are not suitable for long-term study. News that scientists successfully cultivated stabile long-life stem cells has been haled as one of the most important discovery in the scientific community.

The technique can quickly increase the length of human telomeres and as a result, the treated cells behave as if they are much younger and multiply with abandon in the laboratory dish – rather than stagnating and dying.

“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 Sanford, in a statement.

“This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing and disease modeling,” she said.

The procedure involves the use of a modified type of RNA which carries instructions from genes in the DNA to a cell’s protein-making factories. With this new method, the chromosome in the cell increase the length of telomeres by 10 percent, allowing the cells to divide about 28 more times for skin cells, and about three more times for muscle cells.

“This study is the first step towards the development of telomere extension to improve cell therapies and to possibly treat disorders of accelerated aging in humans,” said John Cooke, co-author of the study and now chair of cardiovascular science at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

The new technique could make adult stem cells, or differentiated stem cells, more viable for research, since they typically cannot be cultured indefinitely in a lab.

A paper describing the research extending telomeres was published in FASEB Journal.