Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Medicine

Telomere-Lengthening Procedure Turns Clock Back Years In Human Cells 183

Zothecula writes Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a new procedure to increase the length of human telomeres. This increases the number of times cells are able to divide, essentially making the cells many years younger. This not only has useful applications for laboratory work, but may point the way to treating various age-related disorders – or even muscular dystrophy.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Telomere-Lengthening Procedure Turns Clock Back Years In Human Cells

Comments Filter:
  • oh yeah, closed system.
    • Er no. Definitely not a closed system.

    • so the slowly-sickening cells live longer. a new boon to geriatric medicine, a new torpedo in the side of Medicare and Social Security.

      • so the slowly-sickening cells live longer. a new boon to geriatric medicine, a new torpedo in the side of Medicare and Social Security.

        No. This could allow cells copy themselves without replication errors for more generations. This is not "preserving" cells that are growing sicker; the existing cell is copying itself, and having a longer telomere means the succeeding generations are protected longer from errors. From one of the first links I googled (http://www.tasciences.com/what-is-a-telomere/):

        "Many scientific studies have shown a strong connection between short telomeres and cellular aging."

  • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @07:16PM (#48954299)
    Seems like make stem cells young again will extend us past 120. The last 115 year old that died had 2 stem cells supplying more than 80% of her red blood cells. If you can rejuvenate them, they should be able to slow down aging everywhere else as well.
    • by aliquis ( 678370 )

      Guess cancer is still an issue but what I wonder is if one can combine this with more food and physical work and hence look good AND be fresh / not burn off quickly at the same time?

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Oh you mean pollution the leading cause of cancer. Still a really major problems as many of the pollutants build up in your body guaranteeing death no matter how much money you have for medical services and a really nasty one at that. Rather amusing that the corporate executives will be killing themselves and their families because there is no escaping the kinds of pollution that build up within the human body, in the air, in the water, in the soil and in the food.

        • by aliquis ( 678370 )

          Nah. I was thinking errors occurring in the copying of genes or whatever. For whatever reason really.

          I don't know how the free radicals work and I don't really know to what extent the body make more sells / replace them quicker if you work out and eat more (but I know about the ideas that eating less will help the cells repair damage instead.)

          So that was what I was thinking of.

          Recently I saw some statement that 60-something percent of the cancer cases wasn't because of something you had done but that doesn'

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The last 115 year old that died had 2 stem cells supplying more than 80% of her red blood cells.

      Citation needed.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Meh, they need to invent a way to reverse ageing. I'm already post a prime, I don't want to be stuck like this for the rest of my much extended life!

      Seriously, how annoying will it be when they invest booster spice and all the people under 30 can live that way forever?

      • Meh, they need to invent a way to reverse ageing. I'm already post a prime, I don't want to be stuck like this for the rest of my much extended life!

        Seriously, how annoying will it be when they invest booster spice and all the people under 30 can live that way forever?

        One step at a time. My guess is that any age halting method would probably have some improvement for those post prime but even
        if it all it does is halt your aging at your current age that buys you more time until they can actually figure out how to reverse the aging process.
        At this point in life with death starting to loom on the horizon, if I had to do it all over again, I would probably opt to go into the medical
        field and research aging. With a finite lifespan, a complete career change is no longer a go

      • Meh, they need to invent a way to reverse ageing.

        Isn't that what they've done? "This increases the number of times cells are able to divide, essentially making the cells many years younger." Sure, it might take a while for your body to heal the damage, and it might require further medical help in extreme cases, but the core cause has been fixed.

        Seriously, how annoying will it be when they invest booster spice and all the people under 30 can live that way forever?

        Or until an accident or illness kills you.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Won't allowing cells to divide like they are in a baby highly increase the risk of cancer?

    • Re:cancer (Score:5, Informative)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @07:28PM (#48954357) Journal
      You might be thinking of something different, reverting the cells to stem cells. These are the telomeres, which are the tail end of the DNA strand that gets chopped a little every time the cell splits. After many splits, there's none left and the cell dies.

      There are already ways to extend the telomeres, that is something telomerase accomplishes, but this is a new procedure.
      • The cell dos not die, it just can not successful split anymore, so well, it dies at its final splitting.

    • For an old premed course, cells that divide past (roughly) fifty times and don't then die become tumors.
      • Re:cancer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sg_oneill ( 159032 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @07:58PM (#48954497)

        Yeah thats the Hayflick limit which is designed to stop that.

        Theres actually a damn good reason why cells are designed to stop reproducing after a certain limit. In fact one of cancers strategies is to artificially prevent telemere shortening to try and circumvent the hayflick limit.

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          And yet there are stem cells in the body that can naturally express telomerase, so overcome the limit.

          But it sure does seem to not be a defect or problem that there is a limit.

          Easy to see how messing with this in healthy people would be likely to cause more harm than good, especially if they can't be extremely selective about which cells they apply this to.

          Over time cell division inherently degrades the genetic material, because the error correction in the copying mechanism used in Mitosis is not good

    • Re:cancer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gronofer ( 838299 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @08:58PM (#48954715)
      Yes, the article mentions that, and says extending by only 1000 nucleotides is a good thing because "cells that divide endlessly could pose a increased cancer risk if used in humans.". Of course if you kept repeating the treatment, it would be the same as dividing endlessly anyway.
    • More likely the opposite. One of the hallmarks of cancer is genomic instability caused by abnormal chromosomes. Restorative extension of telomeres would in fact stabilize chromosomes and protect them from developing anomalies.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Restorative extension of telomeres would in fact stabilize chromosomes and protect them from developing anomalies.

        Interesting if true, do you have a source for this info?

        • Re:cancer (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Doubting Sapien ( 2448658 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @09:52PM (#48954971)

          Not offhand in any good laymen's literature I know of. But the process is described in a bunch of molecular biology textbooks I don't have access to at the moment. When chromosomes are not protected with telomere caps on the ends, the cellular machinery is likely to mistakenly treat them as DNA double strand breaks. What happens in such situations is that proteins involved in DNA repair will try to join the "naked" end to the nearest other piece of DNA, even if it belongs to another healthy chromosome. Fused chromosomes are always bad news for cellular health. The problem is amplified in what is called a breakage-fusion-bridge (b/f/b) cycle as cells try to continue dividing with abnormal chromosomes that now doesn't separate as they should.

          The presence of healthy telomeres suppresses this process. Even if your chromosomes get messed up through the infrequent snags that still happens occasionally, a damaged chromosome that is able to restore the presence of telomeres at the end by one means or another (there are several) will stop undergoing b/f/b cycles. Mind you, the chromosome is still damaged to some degree, but it doesn't get worse.

          • Mind you, the chromosome is still damaged to some degree, but it doesn't get worse.

            Cancer cells are observed to maintain viability this way - even though they are diseased and abnormal cells, they maintain just enough chromosomal health by activating the necessary telomere maintenance process to continue dividing without incurring even greater genomic damage.

    • Yep.
  • Interesting approach (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chikungunya ( 2998457 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @07:33PM (#48954373)

    Making the treatment directly with mRNA sidestep a lot of dangers of promoting cell replication, the immune system would not have any foreign proteins to recognize and so multiple doses are feasible, the RNA is degraded over time so the replication goes back to normal instead of keeping forever in an artificial state and it was demonstrated that the cells grow "old" again after the treatment.

    Still, it feels like its going to be much more a lab tool than a anti-aging treatment for a few more decades, RNA treatment is very tricky to do in vivo and even the most promising candidates for treatment (vaccines and so on) only produce very limited success, unless some revolutionary vector is invented in the near future it will pass a lot of years before this can be safe and efficient enough to be commercialized.

    • Still, it feels like its going to be much more a lab tool than a anti-aging treatment for a few more decades, RNA treatment is very tricky to do in vivo and even the most promising candidates for treatment (vaccines and so on) only produce very limited success, unless some revolutionary vector is invented in the near future it will pass a lot of years before this can be safe and efficient enough to be commercialized.

      I'll give you two decades. Three, tops. Get going, I literally don't have forever to wait for this.

      • The timing of these techs is really going to put me as the ~2050 headline "ArsonSmith 85ish, Last man to have to die of natural causes" Who am I kidding, If I make it to 2040 It'll be from some marvelous breakthrough.

  • Anyone else get the sickening sense that 'lengthen your telomeres!!' pitches would be a nearly perfect successor to the historical deluge of penis-pill spam?
    • by Xrikcus ( 207545 )

      It already is to some degree [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

  • by Doubting Sapien ( 2448658 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @07:48PM (#48954439)
    The first author of the paper did an impromptu AMA over at reddit. http://www.reddit.com/r/scienc... [reddit.com]
    • Interesting, thank you.

      He sounds a bit, well, enthusiastic about all of this. He is really looking at this from the rejuvenation end rather than straight molecular biology which pricks up my suspicion meter. Nonetheless, he does make it clear that this procedure (if it really works, if it can be used in a therapeutic sense) is only going to be one small part of a rejuvenation 'package' and there is a long ways to go before this is advertised on late night TV.

      Good read.

      • He also seems to think we're going to live forever in a computer cloud (hello Pauley's ROM construct). I think he might have ingested too much acrylamide as a grad student.

        • From the Reddit AMA by JohnRamus (the lead author):

          Asked to describe a bit of background and where he thinks this research fits in with the rest of the field:

          People have been extending telomeres in human cells since at least 1998, and there are many methods of extending telomeres, including delivery of TERT DNA, delivery of small molecule activators of TERT, and other methods. However, before our method, there was no method to extend telomeres that meets all of several criteria that we think are probably of value in a potential therapy: a method that extends telomeres rapidly, but by only a finite amount after which the normal protective anti-cancer telomere shortening mechanism remains intact, without causing an immune response, and without risk of insertional mutagenesis.

          The innovations brought by our study:

          Our method meets the above criteria for a potentially useful therapy. Specifically, we found that by delivering mRNA modified to reduce its immunogenicity and encoding TERT to human fibroblasts, telomerase activity was transiently (24-48h) increased, telomeres were lengthened (~0.9kb over a few days), proliferative capacity of the cells increased in a dose-dependent manner, telomeres resumed shortening, and the cells eventually stopped dividing and expressed markers of senescence to the same degree as untreated cells.

  • I suspect that this will be one of the most expensive treatments ever. If so, only the very, very, wealthy will live well past 120 years and still be vigorous.
    • Re:Expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @08:23PM (#48954577)

      I suspect that this will be one of the most expensive treatments ever.

      There is no particular reason to believe this will be expensive. It is just some RNA, which can be inexpensively replicated. Even if it is patented, it is likely that someone else can some up with a similar technique, making it a competitive market, and driving down prices.

      If you really want to be a pessimist, you should instead focus on how this is going to bankrupt Social Security. People are going to retire at 65, and then collect benefits for the next 55 years.

      • If it really works people won't give a damn about patents.
        • Re:Expensive (Score:4, Informative)

          by rock_climbing_guy ( 630276 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @10:52PM (#48955259) Journal

          I hate to go all Negative-Nellie on you here, but let me give you a counter-example. There is a drug marketed under the name "Xyrem" that is used to treat very difficult cases of narcolepsy, which is no laughing matter if you know someone with the disease (which I do) or have it yourself (which I don't). This drug used to be cheaply available over the counter, but in more recent times, it has fallen under patent protection and costs up to $12,000 per month, with the price regularly increasing. You read that right: an over the counter drug became an obscenely expensive patent medicine. When I learned this story, I learned the lesson that money buys public policy in the USA.

          You can tell yourself that the fedgov and megacorps can't keep something from us, but in practice, they can make it very difficult and dangerous to obtain outside of the authorized channels when there is enough money involved. Enforcement of laws against marijuana, cocaine, ecstacy, and even meth are nothing compared to this obscenity.

          In short, I do believe that the establishment has the power to keep this from us no matter how bad we want it.

          • "Xylem" sounds like a trade name. Was it called something else before it was patent-captured, or was it actually always patented, but the price went up after it was introduced?

            • Wikipedia has some good information about the drug. It was originally known as GHB, and Xyrem is a trade name. The short story about the "patent capture" is that it was criminalized on Schedule I in the 1990s after a Dateline special reported that it was being used as a date-rape drug. The FDA would several years later award a patent for the medicinal use of the drug, so that's how it became "patent captured". Several years later, the company, realizing that it was a crime to obtain the drug anywhere el
      • Getting RNA into people in any sort of controlled method hasn't yet happened. And it won't be easy.

        Of course it's going to be expensive. Do you think they want everyone to live forever?

      • by sinij ( 911942 )

        If this works really well, then war and/or genocide will be the only way to keep population down. The alternative to death from the old age is much more uglier.

        • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

          I don't know, it seems to me it may be less determinate - people of all ages die, not just the old.

          I'm sure that, over several dozen generations, warfare would be somewhat more refined to be less catastrophically destructive. It will be fought other ways. Today, half the world's at war, and it doesn't result in most of the remainder even being aware of it.

      • Re:Expensive (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Idou ( 572394 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @12:44AM (#48955829) Journal

        People are going to retire at 65, and then collect benefits for the next 55 years.

        If aging can be postponed, then so can retirement. Also, perhaps work will become more pleasant without the pressure of having to rush and save up for retirement.

        • If aging can be postponed, then so can retirement.

          When the number of voters 65+ exceeds the number of voters 18-64, how are you going to raise the retirement age? We already have people living to much older than SS was designed for, and we have not had the political will to fix it.

          • by Idou ( 572394 )
            The longer people live, the higher probability they will be directly impacted by short sighted decisions, like not increasing the retirement age. Longer life will result in more long term thinking.
        • Yeah, right!

          Do you remember the saying that with computers "we could perform the same amount of work in less time, thus live a more leisurely life"? In reality, we perform more work in the same amount of time.

          At the end of the day, everyone is competing against everyone else. That's capitalism. The only difference is that we'll work the same as we always did, but with more years attached to our life. You will be rushing to save up for retirement no matter what; be it till 90 or 190 years of age.

          • by Idou ( 572394 )
            Computational technological advances have greatly increased our ability to generate wealth. Your point seems to be about wealth distribution. However, it is far easier for a society to redistribute wealth than it is to generate wealth (this is easiest to see in developing nations). The harder problem is already being addressed by technology. Technology's propensity to decentralize concentrations of power will eventually solve the easier problem.

            Overall, it is hard for me to accept your point that longer,
            • You're missing the point. By working more, individual lives become more "rich". Meaning the standards of living rise for everyone. But in terms of financial wealth, power is in the disparity of what you have over those who do not. So basing wealth on the idea of increasing denomination via savings is a moot point, because everyone else will be doing the exact same thing; supply and demand carry over.

              • by Idou ( 572394 )
                I agree that I am not understanding your point. However, I can't help but think that our disagreement stems from your seeing this as a zero sum game. Robert Wright has very compelling arguments that human civilization is moving towards nonzero sum games, and this is improving the lives of everyone. I recommend you test your views against the arguments he makes to support this claim.
            • by burbilog ( 92795 )
              Most mortgages are ~30years. If you double the time period people can work without having to worry about a mortgage, you definitely have improved their financial situation (assuming some level of rational financial decisions).

              Longer mortgage is not going to change the situation, at least not much. Let's say I can pay $2k/month, then I can take 30 years mortgage with 3% interest rate to buy $500k house. Then I'll have to pay $260k of interest to the bank during these 30 years.

              Now suddenly I can live much

              • by Idou ( 572394 )
                Please note my:

                assuming some level of rational financial decisions

                Assuming income is the same in both situations, if I am not earning higher than 3% on my investments, then why am I not paying off my mortgage with my surplus monthly net cashflow (which is higher in the second scenario)? If I am earning higher than 3% on my investments then I am earning a spread and making easy money, like a bank (I am earning a higher interest rate than I am being charged).

                Twice the mortgage period length gives me twice as long an opportunity to take advantage of advant

                • by burbilog ( 92795 )
                  Assuming income is the same in both situations, if I am not earning higher than 3% on my investments, then why am I not paying off my mortgage with my surplus monthly net cashflow (which is higher in the second scenario)?

                  Ok, let's do the math again: $500k house, 3%, 60 years, $1.5k monthly payment. Thus I have suprlus $500 per month to pay off the debt. Well, now I have to pay $390k of interest during 52 years. STILL much worse than paying $260 of interest during 30 years, while paying the SAME $2k per mo

                  • by Idou ( 572394 )
                    Here is a more simple explanation. You have two choices:
                    A. You are forced to pay monthly principle payments of $1000
                    B. You are forced to pay monthly principle payments of $500 but can also prepay another $500, if you want (depending on alternative investment opportunities).

                    Option B. allows me to choose between both options, every month. If I choose option A, I am stuck with option A every month. Consequently, a rational person would choose the longest mortgage period possible because they could artif
                    • by burbilog ( 92795 )
                      Consequently, a rational person would choose the longest mortgage period possible because they could artificially create ANY shorter mortgage period option through prepayments.

                      Not always. You have to consider not only monthly payment alone, but interest rate, property price and length of mortgage as well. Extending mortgage length beyond certain limit makes no sense, because it won't reduce monthly payment any more. In previous messages I gave you an example where extra 30 years brought only 1/4 reduction

                    • by Idou ( 572394 )
                      OK, now I think you are just being stubborn. . . You are doing yourself a disservice. Think about this for a while:

                      1) We were keeping all other factors constant and only changing mortgage period.
                      2) In this scenario, mortgage period only impacts monthly payments of principle.
                      3) Prepayments are payments of principle above and beyond what is determined by the mortgage period.
                      4) Accordingly, you want your required principle payments as low as possible because you can also prepay to turn your mortgage p
    • I suspect that this will be one of the most expensive treatments ever.

      Treating aging directly should be cheaper in the long run than treating all age-related diseases separately, which is what we're doing now.

  • by Sperbels ( 1008585 ) on Sunday February 01, 2015 @10:41PM (#48955193)
    Or you could, you know, treat the number one killer of humans: aging.
    • Have you got a citation for "number one killer of humans"?

      How many people as a % actual die due to old age and not cardiac diseases, cancer and car crashes?

      While I do think it would be great to have actual anti ageing, is it actually a major cause of death?

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] Do you really want to live forever?

Only through hard work and perseverance can one truly suffer.

Working...