They specifically looked at the telomeres – structures located at the end of chromosomes, which shorten with age. The team gave the cells ribonucleic acid to make a protein that lengthened the telomere.
The experiment showed that extending the telomeres effectively halted ageing in the isolated sample cells.
“There are a lot of things that cause us to age, and one of these is the DNA. The tip of the chromosome, called telomere, is the ‘time keeper’ of the cell. As cells divide or are subjected to physical or emotional stress, the telomeres can become shorter. At some point, the chromosome can’t function any longer,” Dr. Cooke said.
When asked about the symptoms of this “ageing” disease in children and how widespread it is, he said that affected children have accelerated aging. At the age of 13, 14 or 15 they have the bodies of 80-year-olds.
“They have all the signs of ageing: their bodies are weaker, their bones get weaker, their muscles get weaker, their skin gets aged. Their blood vessels and arteries are also ageing fast, causing heart attacks and strokes,” John Cooke noted.
However, when describing the way he and his team managed to make the cells of progeria patients return to youth, John Cooke said that they had collected them from a progeria research foundation and later found out that their DNA was that of a 70-year-old.
“We treated the cells with ribonucleic acid and managed to extend the telomeres in the cells and it really transformed the cells, which were now able to divide and multiply. Their function was really improved by this treatment,” Dr. Cooke he noted.
He added that the method was also applicable to all other age-related problems.