The cells in our bodies perform their functions slower and begin to dysfunction as we get older. When skin cells age, they produce less collagen which leads to wrinkles form and cuts are slower to heal. Scientists have recently discovered a secret to younger skin.
A new technique developed for rejuvenating skin cells can rewind the biological clock of patients by almost 30 years. This new approach utilized the revolutionary scientific method used to generate stem cells, originally developed by a Nobel laurate scientist named Yamanaka in 2007. Yamanaka’s molecular approach essentially erases cellular identity to convert any cell in the body to a stem cell. For this study, researchers used the Yamanaka’s molecular approach for a shorter period to make human skin cells younger without erasing the identity of skin cells. Yamanaka’s process of stem cell reprogramming takes around 50 days by activating 4 transcription factors in somatic cells. In this study, scientists followed the same protocol but only for 13 days. The scientists have chosen a common type of skin cell called fibroblasts.
They collected fibroblasts from three old donors (average age of 50), applied their molecular reprogramming paradigm and investigated their age-related biological changes. Strikingly, the rejuvenated 50-years-old skin cells looked chemically and genetically as 20-years-old skin cells that are collected from younger donors. Moreover, when they tested the function of rejuvenated fibroblasts in wound healing assay, they observed that the rejuvenated cells behaved the similar to younger cells, as they moved fast and filled the gap in healing wounds. This work holds great potential for regenerative medicine and could be used to repair damaged cells and tissues in many different diseases. The long-term aim of regenerative medicine is to extend the human health span, rather than the lifespan. Very first potential application of this approach could be to rejuvenate skin in older people in parts of the body where they have been cut or burned.