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Scientists May Be One Step Closer To Finding The Key To Eternal Life

Scientists have figured out how to slow the aging process by preventing the shrinkage of telomeres, the protective casings that cover the ends of each chromosome.

The telomeres bind the chromosomes together so they don't unravel as cells divide during growth.

At birth, telomeres are 8,000 to 10,000 nucleotides long but get smaller over time, according to Raw Story. Eventually, the telomeres leave the chromosome exposed and subject to deterioration, which causes aging and could lead to age-related diseases.

But this may soon be a thing of the past thanks to researchers at Stanford University who managed to trick cells into behaving as if they were much younger.

A team, led by microbiology and immunology professor Helen Blau, has created RNA containing a protein that, when administered to chromosomes, makes telomeres longer.

This causes old cells that would usually die or remain stagnate to multiply as though they were younger, the Independent reports.

Blau wrote in a press release,

Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life.

The special RNA could treat individuals with genetic diseases in which telomeres shrink prematurely, like Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and it could possibly prevent conditions that arise largely because of aging like diabetes or heart disease.

It could also be used simply to make cells multiply at a rapid rate, greatly increasing testing material for drugs.

Gerald Weissmann, the editor-in-chief of the journal that published the research, said,

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. In the short term it will help us to understand how aging affects the molecular machinery of cells. In the long-term, the sky's the limit. Biologists have long guessed that the key to a longer lifespan is figuring out how to extend telomeres. Helen Blau and her colleagues have just done that.

The Metro notes that previous studies have shown mice live longer once their telomeres are lengthened.

Citations: Key to eternal youth may be in sight as scientists turn back ageing clock (The Metro), Eternal life could be achieved by procedure to lengthen chromosomes (The Independent), Stanford researchers discover how to trick cells into believing they are younger (Raw Story)