Scientists find way to slow cell ageing

Washington: In a bid to find a longer, healthier life, scientists have developed a new treatment to extend telomeres — protective “end caps” for chromosomes that help keep DNA healthy — to slow the process of cell ageing.

With the time, these protective “end caps” become shorter with each DNA replication and eventually are no longer able to protect DNA from sustaining damage and mutations.

In other words, we get older.

“We hope that these findings will help prevent, delay or treat age-related conditions and diseases, as well as certain devastating genetic diseases of inadequate telomere maintenance,” explained Helen M. Blau, director of the Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine.

To make this discovery, Blau and colleagues delivered modified mRNA encoding TERT – the enzyme that increases the length of telomeres by adding DNA repeats – to four groups of cells.

The first group received modified mRNA encoding TERT, and the other three groups were controls that received either mRNA encoding an inactive form of TERT or no treatment.

The telomeres of the first group were rapidly lengthened over a period of a few days whereas the telomeres of the three control groups were not extended.

The first group was also able to undergo more cell divisions.

“We were surprised at how quickly modified TERT mRNA extends telomeres,” added John Ramunas, first author and postdoctoral fellow who pioneered this work in Blau’s Stanford University laboratory.

It might not be the “fountain of youth” to keep us young forever but this discovery is a real shot in the arm. This work is a game-changer,” noted Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal that published the paper.

“It will help us to understand how ageing affects the molecular machinery of cells,” the authors concluded.