For thousands of years great men such as Alexander the Great and Ponce de León have searched far and wide in their search for the fountain of youth and the hope of eternal life. But where they previously failed, an enterprising group of scientists may have now just succeeded! A report published recently in Science suggests that epigenetic disorganization may be one of the major determinants of human cellular aging, and they also suggest that this disorganization may be reversible. Have we discovered a molecular fountain of youth?

In this new report, researchers from the laboratories of Fuchou Tang, Guang-Hui Liu, and Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte studied Werner syndrome (WS), a rapid aging disease caused by mutations in the WRN gene. WS patients display premature aging, with notable defects in mesodermal tissues (bones, veins/arteries, hair, etc.) and so the authors sought to assess epigenetic alterations in the stem cell which gives rise to these tissues – the mesenchymal stem cell (MSCs). To this end, the group generated a WRN-null human embryonic stem cell line (ESC) using helper-dependent adenoviral (HDAd) vectors, and then differentiated these to MSCs.

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