A group of scientists has found that taking cells from a person with an extremely rare premature aging disease and turning them into induced pluripotent stem cells reversed one of the key causes of aging. And the insight could help pave the way for new therapies.
"We're not saying we've found the fountain of youth, but the process of creating iPS cells recapitulates some of the biology that our species uses to rejuvenate itself in each generation," says Suneet Agarwal of Children's Hospital Boston in a statement.
Increasingly, scientists are taking cells from people afflicted by disease and turning them into iPS cells for research purposes. In the disease, called dyskeratosis congenita, vital telomeres unwind, triggering the aging process. But by turning cells into iPS cells, the researchers found that the revitalized cells had three times the level of TERC as their diseased predecessors. TERC helps restore telomeres.
"Our results demonstrate that reprogramming restores telomere elongation in dyskeratosis congenita cells despite genetic lesions affecting telomerase, and show that strategies to increase (telomerase gene) expression may be therapeutically beneficial," report the researchers. Transplanting the iPS cells into patients, they add, could treat the syndrome without requiring the use of powerful drugs to prevent an immune rejection.