The fascinating research is expected to lead to groundbreaking developments in treatments for age-related diseases.
We often hear that there’s no “secret” to ageing, but what if there’s a science?
Using an IPS (induced pluripotent stem) technique, which involves adding chemicals to adult cells for 50 days, researchers found that the cells had not turned into embryonic stem cells, but had rejuvenated into skin cells that looked and behaved as if they came from a 23-year old.
While the professor leading the experiment, Wolf Reik, stressed that the work is at a very early stage, he told BBC News that he hoped that the technique could eventually be used to keep people healthier for longer as they grow older.
“The long-term aim is to extend the human healthspan rather than the lifespan, so that people can get older in a healthier way,” he said.
Some of the first applications of the research could be to develop medicines to rejuvenate skin in older people in parts of the body where they have been cut or burned, as a way to speed up healing.
Then the next step is to see if the technology will work on other tissues such as muscle, liver and blood cells to help tackle conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and neurological diseases.
However, the big question prompted by the research is whether efforts in this area would lead to a method of whole-body regeneration or even an “anti-ageing” pill.
While we’re certainly an extremely long way from a coveted elixir of youth, we can be sure that both the medical and wider world will be watching closely as this important research develops.