Coming soon: Pop a pill to stay young
London: Scientists have found a way to slow down ageing in individual cells, a breakthrough that could leave people feeling young well into old age.
They believe their finding could help seniors stay healthy, as well as help children with a rare condition that causes them to grow old before their time.
Chris Hutchinson, professor at Durham University, who led the study, said: "The findings are at a very early stage but they show the potential for helping people live more comfortable and less painful lives when they reach 70 or 80 years of age and beyond."
Hutchinson used a drug to slow the ageing of cells taken from children with Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS), a rare genetic condition in which huge amounts of damage to DNA cause cells to quickly age and die, the Daily Mail reports.
As a result, babies rapidly grow old and frail before dying of `old age` between the age of eight and 21.
Hutchinson said: "Our findings could be an important step to helping both children with progeria and older people to live lives that are less debilitating in terms of health problems."
Treating cells with a drug normally given to people who have taken paracetamol overdoses slowed down the ageing process, allowing them to grow normally. Scientists hope that the drug, N-acetyl cysteine, can one day be used to treat HGPS, improving the quality of life for children.
Last year, Ronald DePinho, a Harvard University doctor, made old mice young again. At the beginning of the experiments, the animals` skin, brains, guts and other organs were at a stage equivalent to those of an 80-year-old person.
Within just two months of being given a drug that switches on a key enzyme, the creatures had grown so many new cells that they had almost completely rejuvenated. Remarkably, the male mice went from being infertile to fathering large litters.