The high vulnerability of cultured adult stem cells has posed a big problem for microbiological research. But a new technique, developed by Stanford scientists, can extend the life of cultured cells and offer clues to solving diseases and prolonging life.
The technique can quickly increase the length of human telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. As a result, the treated cells behave as if they are much younger and multiply with abandon in the laboratory dish – rather than stagnating and dying. Normally, telomeres shorten with each cell division, and this is the reason a cell eventually dies.
“Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,”said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Sanford, in a statement. “This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing and disease modeling.”