Harvard/MIT Research Breakthrough Could Reverse Human Aging By Reprogramming Cells

hero old hand holding young hand
Researchers from Harvard Medical School, the University of Maine, and MIT have developed a method for reversing cellular aging. The groundbreaking research could be an alternative to gene therapy for age reversal, changing how humans are treated for age-related diseases.

No one likes growing old. Many try and fight the aging process by utilizing various methods, hoping to turn back time. While some methods have been successful in treating some of the side effects of getting older, none have been able to provide whole-body rejuvenation. However, new research suggests the fountain of youth may yet be obtainable.

young child looking at older man

A team of researchers from multiple universities have shared a study they have been working on that provides a new way to fight the aging process. It is the first chemical method to rejuvenate cells, enabling them to grow younger instead of older. Until now, the only way to achieve something similar was through gene therapy.

The research paper, titled "Chemically induced reprogramming to reverse cellular aging," was recently published in the journal Aging. The research is said to build off of a previous discovery that the expression of specific genes, called Yamanaka factors, are able to transform adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPCs). The previous research won a Nobel Prize and led others to begin pondering whether cellular aging could be reversed without utilizing other methods, some of which could lead to cancer.

pictograph of study results
Pictograph of study results.

In the study, scientists looked for molecules that could reverse cellular aging and in turn essentially reprogram human cells. During the research, the team developed advanced cell-based assays to distinguish between young and old cells, along with senescent cells. During the study, the team was able to identify six chemical combinations that could return nucleocytoplasmic protein compartmentalization (NCC) and genome-wide transcript profiles to youthful states. The process permitted reversing transcriptomic age in under a week.

"Until recently, the best we could do was slow aging," remarked David A. Sinclair, A.O., Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School and lead scientist of the project. "New discoveries suggest we can now reverse it. This process has previously required gene therapy, limiting its widespread use."