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Wolverine would certainly approve of Stanford researchers' new anti-aging study

By Adam Pockross
Hugh Jackman in 20th Century Fox's Logan

For Wolverine, who knows a thing or two about rejuvenation, or really for anyone over 40 who's recently woken up to find the world a lot more sore than it used to be, this study's for you. The geniuses at Stanford University have now figured out how to rejuvenate old human cells using stem cell technology, and they've made some old mice seemingly young again while they're at it.

As you might expect, the process by which they accomplished such seeming de-aging is incredibly technical and complicated, but basically, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine made old human cells seemingly good as new by introducing them to a mix of proteins involved in embryonic development, as laid out in their study published yesterday by Nature Communications.  

The team also used the science in mouse testing, which yielded rodently rejuvenative results, finding that elderly mice regained their youthful piss and vinegar after having their existing muscle stem cells treated with the protein treatment and then pumped back into their bodies.

The proteins at the heart of the experiment are known as Yamanaka factors, and are widely used in regenerative medicine and drug discovery to turn adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, aka iPS cells. Regardless of where the original cell came from, iPS cells can be modified to become pretty much any type of cell in the body.

By inducing old human cells in a lab dish to briefly express these proteins from early embryonic development, the scientists were able to rewind many “molecular hallmarks of aging” and render “the treated cells nearly indistinguishable from their younger counterparts,” according to Stanford Medicine News Center.

“We saw a dramatic rejuvenation across all hallmarks but one in all the cell types tested,” said the senior author of the study, Vittorio Sebastiano, Ph.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and the Woods Family Faculty Scholar in Pediatric Translational Medicine. “But our last and most important experiment was done on muscle stem cells. Although they are naturally endowed with the ability to self-renew, this capacity wanes with age. We wondered, can we also rejuvenate stem cells and have a long-term effect?”

So they brought out the lab mice. And after transplanting protein-treated old mouse muscle stem cells back into elderly mice, the researchers discovered the rodents had gained back muscle strength similar to that found in younger mice.

And somewhere in the X-verse, Wolverine smiled.

Obviously much more research is necessary, but the hope is that the findings will have far-reaching implications for aging, or rather, anti-aging research.