Madeleine Aggeler
December 16, 2016 11:55 am
Suzanne Tenner/FX

Good news, Cher! We may finally have a way to turn back time.

Researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California have developed a technique that can reverse the effects of aging in human and animal cells.

By reprogramming certain genomes in mice, scientists were able to extend the lifespan of prematurely aging mice by 30%.

When they applied the treatment to healthy mice, researchers observed that the animals appeared rejuvenated, and that some of their cells were able to heal more quickly than before.

They key to the Salk team’s discovery are the four Yamanaka genes. Ten years ago, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka discovered four genes that, when activated, can turn adult cells into undifferentiated cells — similar to embryonic stem cells. This method turned out to be incredibly dangerous though. When the Yamanaka genes were activated in live animals, the undifferentiated cells often morphed in cancer.

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The scientists at the Salk Institute were able to alter the Yamanaka genes so that they are only activated by a certain compound for short periods of time.

This compound was put into the mice’s drinking water twice a week. The limited exposure allowed cells to rejuvenate without becoming cancerous.

Dr. Izpisua Belmonte of the Salk Institute describes aging as a manuscript that is continually edited.

While researchers are still years away from developing a compound that could be given to humans, their findings could give the scientific community important insights on the process of aging.

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