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Progress in Fighting Diseases of Aging?

Scientists have found a new way to increase the length of human telomeres, protective caps on chromosomes that have been linked to aging and disease.

The researchers, from the Stanford University School of Medicine, said the cells treated with the new method behave as if they are much younger than untreated cells.

Thanks to the procedure, which involves the use of a modified type of RNA, scientists will be able to manufacture large numbers of cells for further research or drug development. The research could lead to treatment for diseases caused by shortened telomeres.

Telomeres, protective caps on the end of chromosome, shorten over a period of time.

“Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres… turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,” said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford and director of the university’s Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology. “This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing or disease modeling.”

“This new approach paves the way toward preventing or treating diseases of aging,” Blau added. “There are also highly debilitating genetic diseases associated with telomere shortening that could benefit from such a potential treatment.”

The study was published in the FASEB Journal.

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