Defective Cells That Cause Wrinkles May Be Treatable

Imagine being able to reverse the aging process, or at least erase those early wrinkles. A new study suggests that it may be scientifically possible.

Researchers studying a childhood syndrome called Hutchinson-Gilford progeria (search) have shown that some features of premature aging, like wrinkles, may be reversed in the lab.

Children with this syndrome develop symptoms that closely resemble the aging process, such as wrinkles. This premature aging process is thought to be linked to genetic mutations of a protein found in cells.

Reversing the Aging Process

But in the study, published in the current issue of Nature Medicine, researchers looked at the effects of altering how these cells produce the protein. They found that by changing the protein-synthesis machinery of the cells, the genetic mutations linked to the premature aging process were not formed.

By demonstrating that the wrinkle-inducing effects of these cells are reversible, researchers suggest that treatments may eventually be designed to reverse the premature aging process.

Of course, these are only very preliminary findings. But researchers say the results establish a “proof of principle” for the reversal of the premature aging process in this syndrome and potentially in normal, healthy people.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCE: Scaffidi, P. Nature Medicine, March 6, 2005, online edition.