Old human cells rejuvenated in breakthrough discovery on aging

A new way to rejuvenate old cells in the laboratory, making them not only look younger, but start to behave more like young cells, has been discovered by researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Brighton.
A team led Professor Lorna Harries, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Exeter, has discovered a new way to rejuvenate inactive senescent cells. Within hours of treatment the older cells started to divide, and had longer telomeres – the ‘caps’ on the chromosomes which shorten as we age.

This discovery, funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust, builds on earlier findings from the Exeter group that showed that a class of genes called splicing factors are progressively switched off as we age. The University of Exeter research team, working with Professor Richard Faragher and Dr Elizabeth Ostler from the University of Brighton, found that splicing factors can be switched back on with chemicals, making senescent cells not only look physically younger, but start to behave more like young cells and start dividing.

The researchers applied compounds called reversatrol analogues, chemicals based on a substance naturally found in red wine, dark chocolate, red grapes and blueberries, to cells in culture. The chemicals caused splicing factors, which are progressively switched off as we age to be switched back on. Within hours, the cells looked younger and started to rejuvenate, behaving like young cells and dividing.

The discovery has the potential to lead to therapies which could help people age better, without experiencing some of the degenerative effects of getting old. Most people by the age of 85 have experienced some kind of chronic illness, and as people get older they are more prone to stroke, heart disease and cancer.

Professor Harries said: “This is a first step in trying to make people live normal lifespans, but with health for their entire life. Our data suggests that using chemicals to switch back on the major class of genes that are switched off as we age might provide a means to restore function to old cells.”

Dr Eva Latorre, Research Associate at the University of Exeter, who carried out the experiments was surprised by the extent and rapidity of the changes in the cells.

“When I saw some of the cells in the culture dish rejuvenating I couldn’t believe it. These old cells were looking like young cells. It was like magic,” she said. “I repeated the experiments several times and in each case the cells rejuvenated. I am very excited by the implications and potential for this research.”

Professor Harries added: “This demonstrates that when you treat old cells with molecules that restore the levels of the splicing factors, the cells regain some features of youth. They are able to grow, and their telomeres – the caps on the ends of the chromosomes that shorten as we age – are now longer, as they are in young cells. Far more research is needed now to establish the true potential for these sort of approaches to address the degenerative effects of aging. ”

Professor Richard Faragher of the University of Brighton, will today argue for more research into the degenerative effects of ageing in a debate into whether science should be used to extend people’s lifespans.

BMC Cell Biology – Small molecule modulation of splicing factor expression is associated with rescue from cellular senescence

Abstract Background

Altered expression of mRNA splicing factors occurs with ageing in vivo and is thought to be an ageing mechanism. The accumulation of senescent cells also occurs in vivo with advancing age and causes much degenerative age-related pathology. However, the relationship between these two processes is opaque. Accordingly we developed a novel panel of small molecules based on resveratrol, previously suggested to alter mRNA splicing, to determine whether altered splicing factor expression had potential to influence features of replicative senescence.


Treatment with resveralogues was associated with altered splicing factor expression and rescue of multiple features of senescence. This rescue was independent of cell cycle traverse and also independent of SIRT1, SASP modulation or senolysis. Under growth permissive conditions, cells demonstrating restored splicing factor expression also demonstrated increased telomere length, re-entered cell cycle and resumed proliferation. These phenomena were also influenced by ERK antagonists and agonists.


This is the first demonstration that moderation of splicing factor levels is associated with reversal of cellular senescence in human primary fibroblasts. Small molecule modulators of such targets may therefore represent promising novel anti-degenerative therapies.

28 thoughts on “Old human cells rejuvenated in breakthrough discovery on aging”

  1. Between this and the SENS program, there are a lot of new technologies that we can only hope hit the market soon. Most of the US debt is related to aging issues, medical and people not able to work. Get rid of the decrepitude of aging, and you eliminate the root causes of our national debt.

  2. Is there really a debate as to whether science should help to extend a persons lifespan? Why not make it easy and just euthanize everyone when they reach they age of 70. Not only would it put these research scientist out of business but consider the cost savings to society as a whole.

  3. No need to for supertreatments. Being in touch with the sun, the earth, steam sauna, a practice to balance the chackras, balanced PH diet and herbs is the ultimate anti aging medicine.

  4. But which cells? What type? It matters. If I had to go in order of priority, I’d want the rejuvenation to be demonstrated first with brain cells / neurons / glial cells – all the stuff that supports the brain. I’d rather have a fit mind in an aged body than an aged unhealthy mind in a young fit body.

    • Actually, I’d argue completely differently.
      The best option would be skin cells.
      NOT because that’s most important. But because that could reach the market first.
      A cream with good absorption capacity could take these small molecules into the skin deep enough to produce real results, and you could make and sell that without going through a decade or two of regulatory testing and applications.
      Now you have a multi-billion dollar market supporting this tech.
      NOW you have the resources, and a multi-million person market who will add to your political clout, to push through the clinical trials etc so you can get drugs to the deeper tissues.

      Seriously, I think that starting with skin treatment first will get you to improved brain drugs on the market faster than starting with brain drugs.

      • Pterostilbene is a well known analogue of resveratrol. Much more available in the body, whereas res is very quickly removed, never really gets past the liver. Ptero is commonly available. Quite soluble in ethanol and similar solvents.

      • Alright – but what about what was done for AIDS patients back in the 80s, when such requirements were loosened for those already facing certain death? Likewise, for those who are already old enough and weak enough, allow them the choice to take experimental age-rejuvenation drugs, on the grounds that they won’t be around much longer anyway.

        • The problem is that the government would really prefer that those facing certain death from old age go ahead and die. It relieves pressure on pension systems. Whereas most of the AIDS victims, if you could relieve their symptoms, could be productive taxpayers.

          • That’s a completely different issue – the government shouldn’t be allowed final say in the matter. The elderly represent a market, and anti-aging is primarily meant for them.

          • The governments hate having lots of old, infirm, expensively sick people.
            Having lots of experienced, wise, healthy people is a great thing economically speaking.

            And governments, from what I can see, largely consists at the upper levels of people in their 50s, 60s and even 70s.

          • Government does not operate that way, if it is democratic. The elderly vote more regularly. That means they have government at their doorstep asking what they can do for them to make them happy. Government does not think big picture efficiency, it thinks: How do I keep power?

  5. Assuming this is real, this sound like something that we’ll all be buying through LEF in another year or two.

  6. The first thing to do is figure out a way to replace old ideas and old minds with fresh new ideas and fresh new minds. Until then let the old people die. It is the only way the human race can survive.

    • Because if people don’t die they will just hang around trying to fit in instead of moving on to do their own thing elsewhere. Also truth is gerontocratic.

    • Because new ideas are always better than old ideas.
      Or, with apologies to Chesterton, “Tuesday’s ideas are wrong because it’s Wednesday”!

    • A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. – Max Planck

      A.K.A: The Bosses Never Die Problem.

      And lest any get offended by this, in my personal experience it is 70 and 80 year olds who bring this up the most.

      • The current solution being widely trialled is to accuse anyone who has been in a position of power for more than a couple of years of sexual harassment.
        Applied throughout the entertainment industry, religion and politics, it is going to move to most industries within a couple of years.

    • Opportunities are often invented/recognized by those with motivation, energy and ability rather than handed out by vacancies of those who retired. New companies start with young bright people. The old ideas die when they do not compete well with the new ideas.
      There is no need to insure that the old loose their jobs. That is your inner selfish sociopath talking.

      The only thing that is needed is a continuous effort to remove barriers to market entry. Economically, we must be wary of any regulation that makes market entry artificially difficult, particularly laws that necessitate more administrative people, long delays, or cooperation with other entities, that might favor the old ways. There are definitely needs for regulations, they just need to take into consideration how much manpower is needed and design those regulations, oversight, and enforcement to minimize that.

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