29/11/2010 10:06 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Have Experts Discovered The Secret Of Eternal Youth?

An enzyme could keep your skin, body and brain young Could an enzyme help keep your skin, body and brain young? Photo: Flickr, Victor Bezrukov

Could the end of wrinkles and creaky joints really be in sight? Harvard University scientists seem to think they're onto something with their latest research, where they reversed the effects of ageing in lab mice.

Published in the journal Nature, the researchers' study describes how activating an enzyme that protects the tips of chromosomes, called telomeres, could keep your skin, body and brain ever young.

The enzyme in question is called telomerase, which was first discovered in the 1980s. Mice engineered to lack telomerase age much faster than other mice, say the researchers. But if you replace the telomerase they bounce back to health quickly.

In fact within two weeks of being given a drug that re-activated their telomerase production, the mice - which, in terms of age, had the skin, brains and bodies of the equivalent of 80-year-old humans - had almost completely rejuvenated, with previously infertile male mice even going on to father healthy litters.

The researchers hint at the possibility that telomerase-increasing drugs could provide the basis for treatments for rare disorders linked with premature ageing as well as more common age-related problems.

But there's a downside. Telomerase has been linked with cancer, and may help existing tumours grow faster. Not just that, but since the experiments were carried out on lab mice, there's no guarantee that the findings will be relevant to humans. And even if this is the breakthrough the scientists hope it is, any anti-ageing treatments based on their findings could be more than ten years away.

In the meantime, what do you do to keep the ticking of time at bay?

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