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To Be Young Again

Researchers have engineered skin cells from a 53-year-old woman to be more like those from a 23-year-old, BBC News reports.

Researchers from the Babraham Institute and elsewhere developed a maturation phase transient reprogramming (MPTR) method to reprogram cells' epigenome, similar to how somatic cells can be transformed into induced pluripotent stem cells but without losing the cell type and function. As they report in eLife, the researchers applied this approach, in which the Yamanaka factors are ectopically expressed, to dermal fibroblast cells from middle-aged donors. They found that the cells briefly lose, but then regain, their fibroblast identity during the process and then exhibited cellular traits more similar to cells from a person 30 years younger.

This approach, the researchers say, could eventually have therapeutic uses.

"We have been dreaming about this kind of thing. Many common diseases get worse with age and to think about helping people in this way is super exciting," senior author Wolf Reik from the Babraham tells the BBC.

New Scientist notes that it has thus far only been applied to skin cells and the BBC adds that the iPS approach increases cancer risk and safer methods would be needed.