An elixir of life could soon be a reality: Scientists

An elixir of life could soon be a reality: Scientists

An elixir of life could soon be a reality: Scientists

In remarkable experiments, a team of US scientists took skin cells from children with Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS), a rare genetic condition in which babies rapidly grow old and die at around 12 years, and turned them healthy again by using rapamycin, known as the "forever young drug".

Rapamycin, used to suppress the immune system in organ transplants, has been created from a bacterium found in the soil on Easter Island -- which lies more than 2,000 miles off Chile, the Daily Mail reported.

Past research has hinted that the drug may have the power to extend human lifespan by more than a decade.

In the latest research, the scientists, who included eminent genetic scientist Dr Francis Collins and collaborators from Harvard Medical School, studied the effect of the drug on skin cells from three children with HGPS.

The disease causes levels of a mutant protein called progerin to build up inside every cell of the body, producing defects and rapidly ageing the cells.

Treating them with the drug flushed the poisonous protein out of the cells and reversed the defects, effectively making them healthy again. The cells also lived longer.

"It is known that during ageing, our cells accumulate by-products of normal cell function," said Dimitri Krainc, one of the co-authors of the study.

"Our body's ability to remove this debris declines with ageing and it is thought that even a small activation of this 'debris removal' system would extend the health and life-span of our cells and organs."

According to the researchers, some similarities between HGPS and the normal ageing process mean that the breakthrough could also hold hope for the general population.

The researchers, who detailed their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine, now hope to try out the drug, or something similar, on children with HGPS.

But with progerin, albeit in much smaller amounts, also partially to blame for the normal ageing process, the implications could be far wider.