Many of us would like the ability to live longer — a recent study suggests this may one day be possible. Researchers at the Salk Institute say they've prolonged the lifespan of mice by as much as 30 percent, and believe they may be able to repeat these results someday in humans too.

For the study, now published online in the journal Cell, researchers were able to reduce signs of aging in mice and extend their lifespan from 18 to 24 weeks by reprogramming chemical marks on their genome. According to the researchers, this result suggests that aging can be manipulated, in both animals and humans.

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"We did not correct the mutation that causes premature aging in these mice," lead researcher Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte said in a recent statement. "We altered aging by changing the epigenome, suggesting that aging is a plastic process."

For the study, the team used a cell reprogramming technique that turned the cells back to stem cells, which are able to be manipulated into any type of cell, The Independent reported. The researchers used this technique to change the way four genes, which are involved in cellular programming, are expressed. As a result, they were able to reverse the age-associated characteristics of these genes.

The same technique was tried on mice with progeria, a condition that makes them age prematurely, and on normal elderly mice. Once again, all mice experienced signs of decreased aging. For example, tissue from their skin, spleen, kidney and stomach all had improved appearance when inspected under a microscope. In addition, the cardiovascular system, which often fails and causes early death in these prematurely aging mice, also showed improvements in structure and function.

“Obviously, mice are not humans and we know it will be much more complex to rejuvenate a person,” added Belmonte.“But this study shows that ageing is a very dynamic and plastic process, and therefore will be more amenable to therapeutic interventions than what we previously thought.”

Source: Ocampo A, Reddy P, Martinex-Redondo P, et al.In Vivo Amelioration of Age-Associated Hallmarks by Partial Reprogramming. Cell . 2016

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