Innovative researchers from Houston Methodist Research Institute (HMRI) used a new technique to introduce RNA into the DNA of cells taken from patients with progeria, a genetic disease that causes individuals to age at an accelerated rate. (Source) As a result, the RNA introduction caused the cells to create more telomerase, a key component in telomeres. In turn, this caused the telomeres to grow longer. (Source)
In order to understand the significance of the research, it’s important to first understand what telomeres are and what role they play in our overall health and the aging process. Telomeres are the protective caps of our chromosomes, and help the chromosomes stay together during cell division, (Source) Cell division occurs constantly, and as a result, telomeres will naturally shorten over time due to this stress. Other behaviors and life experiences can also lead to telomeres shortening, such as early childhood stress. fast processed foods, the lack of sunlight and a non holistic lifestyle.
Cells used in this study were derived from children with progeria, which, according to the Progeria Research Foundation, is a very rare fatal genetic disease that causes cells to age at an advanced pace. By the time these children are 14, they can die from conditions associated with old age, such as heart disease.
More research needs to be done to confirm that this telomere lengthening can be repeated in living models.
Source: Li Y, Zhou G, Bruno IG, et al. Telomerase mRNA Reverses Senescence in Progeria Cells. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017