APR 13, 2022 9:58 AM PDT

Old Skin Cells Made Young Again with Reprogramming

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Our bodies contain many different cell types, which are defined by the genes they express and the functions they carry out. Stem cells can differentiate into any type of cell, and in cellular reprogramming, adult skin cells can be taken back to a stem cell state by modifying the genes they express. Now scientists have used cellular reprogramming to turn back the age of adult human skin cells. Reporting in eLife, the researchers were able to take the cells back thirty years, and made them youthful again, but did not change their specialized functions. The study authors are hopeful that this work could significantly advance regenerative medicine.

Image credit: modified from Prawny/Pixabay

The researcher that developed the technique for reprogramming adult cells into stem cells, Shinya Yamanaka, won a Nobel Prize for his efforts. Cells have to be treated with the so-called Yamanaka factors for about 50 days to transform into stem cells.

In this study, a modified technique was applied, called maturation phase transient reprogramming, in which cells are treated with Yamanaka factors for only thirteen days. Cells have partially lost their specialized identity by that point, and age-related changes are gone. When these cells were then grown normally, they behaved as skin cells, and expressed genes associated with skin cells called fibroblasts. The cells also generated collagen like skin cells should. But the hallmarks of aging were gone.

Cells start to wear out and don't perform as efficiently as they get older, and their age can be assessed in a few ways; epigenetic tags on the genome are one marker of aging, while another is the transcriptome of a cell - all of the genes it expresses.

In this study, the researchers found that the cells treated for thirteen days had lost thirty years of aging markers compared to what's expected based on reference data.

When skin cells called fibroblasts were taken to a more youthful state, the researchers found that they produced more collagen. Collagen is a crucial protein that provides structural support to tissues and bodies. When the scientists tested the reprogrammed cells, in a model of a wound in a dish, the collagen from the younger fibroblasts migrated to places where there was damage. Those fibroblasts also fixed a gap made in a layer of cells more quickly than untreated fibroblasts.

The study suggested that these reprogrammed cells might one day be used to heal wounds faster. More work will be necessary to uncover all the mechanisms that take these cells to a more youthful state.

This research is "a big step forward in our understanding of cell reprogramming," said first study author Dr. Diljeet Gill, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Wolf Reik at the Babraham Institute.

Sources: Babraham Institute, eLife

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
APR 28, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
A Genetic Cause of Lupus is Identified
APR 28, 2022
A Genetic Cause of Lupus is Identified
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can impact anyone, but tends to affects women between the ages of 15 and 45. The dis ...
MAY 09, 2022
Neuroscience
Can Gene Therapy Treat Psychiatric Disorders?
MAY 09, 2022
Can Gene Therapy Treat Psychiatric Disorders?
Using cutting-edge technologies, researchers have shown how mutations in a gene called Transcription Factor 4 (TCF4) can ...
MAY 31, 2022
Neuroscience
How Visual Maps are Generated in the Brain
MAY 31, 2022
How Visual Maps are Generated in the Brain
Different parts of the brain have been carefully mapped, so we have some idea of what parts of the brain are used to per ...
JUN 14, 2022
Cancer
Maintaining Sample Temperature: Q&A From a Corning Scientist
JUN 14, 2022
Maintaining Sample Temperature: Q&A From a Corning Scientist
Generally speaking, bad things can happen when a cell sample temperature gets too hot or too cold. Temperature instabili ...
JUN 24, 2022
Plants & Animals
New study deepens understanding of how animals see, and what colors
JUN 24, 2022
New study deepens understanding of how animals see, and what colors
We’ve all what animals see. Do they see the same way humans do in terms of colors, or is the vision of each animal ...
JUN 19, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Oral Immunotherapy for Peanut Allergy Most Effective Before 12 Months Old
JUN 19, 2022
Oral Immunotherapy for Peanut Allergy Most Effective Before 12 Months Old
Oral immunotherapy for peanut allergies is safer and more effective in children under 12 months old than in toddlers and ...
Loading Comments...