Scientists discovered how a chemical compound found in red wine and dark chocolate could help to rejuvenate old cells in the laboratory, making them not only look younger, but start to behave more like young cells.
Scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Brighton have discovered how a chemical compound, found in red wine and dark chocolate, could help to rejuvenate inactive senescent cells, slowing down the ageing process.
The team successfully applied compounds based on chemicals naturally found in red wine, dark chocolate, red grapes and blueberries to cells in the laboratory.
Within hours of treatment with these so-called reversatrol analogues, the older cells started to divide, and had longer telomeres.
The study was based around the knowledge that when normal people age, the strands of DNA in cells gradually lose the protective telomeres that act a little like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. The result is that cells become progressively less able to repair themselves.
The team at Exeter University was led by Professor Lorna Harries, professor of molecular genetics, and supported by researchers at Brighton University.
The study builds on earlier findings which showed that a class of genes called splicing factors are progressively switched off as we age.
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.”
It was like magic
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.
She said: “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. I repeated the experiments several times and in each case the cells rejuvenated.”
The discoveries have the potential to lead to therapies which could help people age better, without experiencing some of the degenerative effects of getting old.
Professor Richard Faragher from the University of Brighton said: “At a time when our capacity to translate new knowledge about the mechanisms of ageing into medicines and lifestyle advice is limited only by a chronic shortage of funds, older people are ill-served by self-indulgent science fiction.”
The research Small molecule modulation of splicing factor expression is associated with rescue from cellular senescence, was published in the journal BMC Cell Biology.