TECH

Can We Stop Ageing? Scientists Find A Way To Replace The Ageing Cells In Our Bodies

Nobody likes getting old, so why do it at all?

22/11/2016 11:50 | Updated 22 November 2016

Scientists believe they’ve found a way to slow or even halt one of the key processes that causes us to get old.

Scientists at CalTech and UCLA are in no way looking forward to saying “pardon” all the time  and so decided to see if they could halt this seemingly inevitable process.

wir0man via Getty Images
This is a mitochondria, one of the many 'batteries' that power our cells.

 Well it turns out they can.

They’ve found that they can actually stop cells from malfunctioning and dying, one of the key steps that cause us to age.

Ok so how does it work?

Each cell has its own ‘battery’ which is called a mitochondria, a single cell could contain hundreds of thousands of these which then in turn create the energy needed for the cell to function.

Something you may not know is that many of these batteries actually malfunction. Why? Well inside each of these batteries is a tiny DNA genome called mtDNA and occasionally it starts to breakdown and mutate, which in turn causes the mitochondria (battery) to malfunction.

Genomegov

Now every cell normally contains a healthy balance of good mitochondria and dud ones, and it can use a process called mitophagy to remove enough of the dud ones so that it can carry on working.

Unfortunately as we get older our cells get worse at destroying the dud ones until there’s such a build up that eventually the cell dies.

This in a nutshell is why we hate getting up stairs when we’re older and why we have to keep saying “pardon” to almost every word uttered in our general direction.

Christian Petersen-Clausen via Getty Images

What the scientists found was that they could increase the activity of the genes that tell a cell when to kill off dud mitochondria, effectively restoring the balance between the good batteries and the bad ones.

When they applied their technique to the muscle cells of a fruit fly they found that they could reduce the amount of mtDNA from 76 per cent to a staggering 5 per cent, effectively halting the ageing process.

“Such a decrease would completely eliminate any metabolic defects in these cells, essentially restoring them to a more youthful, energy-producing state,” notes biological engineering in the laboratory of Professor of Biology Bruce Hay.

So how long before they can use it on you?

“Our goal is to create a future in which we can periodically undergo a cellular housecleaning to remove damaged mtDNA from the brain, muscle, and other tissues. This will help us maintain our intellectual abilities, mobility, and support healthy aging more generally.” concludes Hay.

So the simple answer is not yet, but sooner than you might think.

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