Magazine article Insight on the News

Researching Immortality

Magazine article Insight on the News

Researching Immortality

Article excerpt

Rejunenated tissue could aid burn victims and diabetics ... and fend off pesky old age.

Aging without wrinkles? It could become a reality with a new technique for "immortalizing" human cells, according to Texas researchers. Lab cultures of human cells injected with an antiaging enzyme have lived four times longer than normal. More importantly, they have shown no sign of developing cancer, as some researchers had feared.

"At long last we've learned how to put cellular aging on hold" says Jerry Shay, professor of cell biology and neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. His research recently was published in the journal Nature Genetics.

The magic elixir? Shay and his colleagues introduced the enzyme telomerase into the cells, which effectively reset their biological clocks, enabling them to live and divide like young, vigorous cells.

"This doesn't mean that we're going to be able to get a whiff of telomerase and then live forever," Shay cautions. "We're still going to die, because this won't solve all our problems. There will still be car accidents and shootings"... and health problems unrelated to cellular aging.

Still, the ability to rejuvenate specific cells opens up a dazzling array of possibilities. Doctors could grow skin grafts for burn victims, insulin-producing cells for diabetics or muscle tissue for sufferers of muscular dystrophy. And yes, the technique might help combat wrinkles. …

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