Researchers may now be capable of stopping, and furthermore reverse the aging process. A research group of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the Georgia Institute of Technology performed a study on stem cell cultures published in the journal Cell Cycle.
They began their research by comparing body cells, in which aging correlates to the shortening of telomeres, with adult stems cells which generally maintain its telomeric region. Human adult stem cells from young individuals were obtained and subjected to an accelerated aging process and compared with the "fresh" unaltered adult stem cells. It was found that DNA damage and associated chromatin changes are due to genetic elements called retrotransposons which were once thought to be "junk DNA." Young stem cells are able to cope with and repair the damaging effects of cell damage, however the older stem cells were not. Older cells trigger a process known as cellular senescence which prevents unlimited cell proliferation. By suppressing this signal from retrotransposons, scientists were able to correct and reverse the aging adult stem cells. This discovery may hold the key to treatment of tissue damaging and or age related occurrences such as heart attacks and liver damage.