Study: Researchers were able to rejuvenate skin cells by 30 years

When it comes to skin, many people wish they could turn back time. This is exactly what a team of scientists seems to have succeeded in doing. They have developed a new technique for rejuvenating skin cells, which is now in the specialist magazine eLife has appeared. It means that the biological clock of the cells can be turned back by about 30 years according to molecular standards.

The rejuvenated cells showed signs of behaving like juvenile cells in experiments at the Babraham Institute, a life sciences research facility, when simulating a skin wound. However, the findings are not yet intended for use in the anti-aging field – however, as research progresses, they should revolutionize regenerative medicine.

With the “time jump” of human cells, the researchers succeeded in partially restoring the function of older cells. The functionality of these decreases with age. Regenerative biology aims to repair or replace cells – including old cells.

Collagen production in reprogrammed cells

One of the most important tools of regenerative biology is the ability to generate “induced” stem cells. This process is the result of several steps, each of which erases some of the traits that cells have specialized in. In theory, these stem cells have the potential to transform into any cell type, but science is not yet able to reliably create the conditions for stem cells to re-differentiate into all cell types.

The new method, based on the Nobel Prize-winning stem cell-making technique, circumvents the problem of completely erasing the cell’s identity by stopping the reprogramming at part of the process. In this way, the researchers were able to find a precise balance between reprogramming the cells and their biological rejuvenation while restoring their specialized cellular functions.

In 2007, Shinya Yamanaka became the first scientist to transform normal cells, which have a specific function, into stem cells, which have the special ability to develop into any cell type. The entire process of reprogramming stem cells takes about 50 days and requires four key molecules called Yamanaka factors. With the new method, the so-called transient reprogramming in the maturation phase, the cells are only exposed to the Yamanaka factors for 13 days.

At this point, the age-related changes have cleared up and the cells have temporarily lost their identity. The partially reprogrammed cells were grown under normal conditions to observe whether their specific skin cell function returned. Genome analysis showed that the cells had regained markers characteristic of skin cells (fibroblasts), and this was confirmed by observing collagen production in the reprogrammed cells.

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