One thing cannot be taken from human skin: aging. No matter how hard we try to nurture and care for them, or even tighten them through surgery, wrinkles are almost inevitable. And if you avoid them, you won’t end up looking like your youthful self, but like… forget it! The only really worthwhile option would be to actually rejuvenate skin cells so that they function as they did when they were young. That is exactly what researchers at Cambridge have now achieved.
A 53-year-old woman is happy with skin cells “like 20”
The research branch is called regenerative medicine and the successful team works at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. The scientists rejuvenated the skin cells of a 53-year-old woman by about 30 years, ie »back to twenty«. They published the results of their research in the journal »eLife« and warn in the same breath that they do not hope too soon for this fountain of youth. The research work is still in its infancy and much remains to be done before its final release. Above all, the carcinogenicity of the application must again be carefully examined.
The core of the team is epigenetics expert Wolf Reik, who took up the 2012 findings of Japanese physician Shin’ya Yamanaka. Yamanaka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine along with John Gurdon. The Japanese turned the connective tissue cells of mice back into induced pluripotent stem cells, turning them back into cells that can develop in all possible directions. To do this, he removed all special features from the already differentiated cells in a 50-day process, restoring them to their original state.
May also be useful against age-related diseases
Reik didn’t want to completely erase cell identity, so he performed the same reprogramming for just 13 days. The specialized functions were preserved, while at the same time the hands of the life clock went back. Subsequent genome analyzes showed that the actually 53-year-old skin cells were just as agile as approximately 20-year-old cells. A wound simulated in the petri dish also healed faster. The genes also showed changes indicative of increased resistance to age-related diseases. At best, cataracts and Alzheimer’s disease could be a thing of the past with this method.
However, the scientists first need to clarify whether cells other than skin cells can also be affected in this way. So now blood cells, liver cells and muscle cells are on the agenda, then we’ll know more.