One Step Closer to Beating Death: Scientists Are Using a New Method to "De-Age" Human Cells in a Lab

Monday, 13 August 2018 - 1:22PM
Medical Tech
Technology
Monday, 13 August 2018 - 1:22PM
One Step Closer to Beating Death: Scientists Are Using a New Method to "De-Age" Human Cells in a Lab
< >
Pixabay/Unsplash Composite
The start-up Rejuvenate Bio is already paving the way to immortal dogs, but two researchers at the University of Exeter are going straight for the big one: de-aging humans. Other organizations have proposed many different ways of accomplishing this, from re-programming cancer cells to fight one another to using stem cells to create new, youthful cells, but Professors Lorna Harries and Matt Whiteman are aiming to take out one of the main culprits of cell degeneration: senescent or "zombie" cells.

Senescent cells are older, damaged cells that have ceased to function properly, and over time they may begin deteriorating the cells around them. Some of the most commonly accepted reasons for the emergence of senescent cells are inflammation and damage to DNA or telomeres, the protective molecules at the end of chromosomes. However, there's another potential factor: the degradation of a group of 300 proteins found in cells, called "splicing factors." According to Harries and Whiteman: "As we age, the amount of splicing factors we are able to make declines. This means that aged cells are less able to switch genes on and off to respond to changes in their environment." In essence, senescence may be the result of a cell becoming locked in one mode and unable to switch.

To deal with this, Harries and Whiteman have begun experimenting with the chemical hydrogen sulphide, which may be able to mitigate the problem and effectively undo the damage in senescent cells: "In our new work, we showed that by treating old cells with a chemical that releases small amounts of hydrogen sulphide, we were able to increase levels of some splicing factors, and to rejuvenate old human cells." One major catch, however: hydrogen sulphide is toxic in large amounts, so Whiteman has been creating a delivery method that brings the chemical directly to mitochondria. "We are hopeful that in using molecular tools such as this, we will be able to eventually remove senescent cells in living people, which may allow us to target multiple age-related diseases at once."
Science
Science News
Medical Tech
Technology
No