Lifestyle & Belief

'Fountain of youth' gene found in mice could help elderly people heal faster


Researchers believe they have found the gene that explains why babies heal faster than older people.


Jean-Sebastien Evrard

The so-called ‘fountain of youth gene’ has been discovered by scientists.

Two teams of American researchers found two separate genes that help accelerate tissue regeneration in lab mice, opening up new possibilities to halt aging in older people.

The teams said that we are one step closer to understanding why younger people heal faster than older people.

The genes Lin28a and IMP1 are highly active in unborn children but their activity decreases over time.

The same was conveniently found in young and old mice.

Scientists reactivated the genes in rodents in one study and found that the healing of wounds happened faster.

The also found that it sped up the regrowth of a patch of fur after it was shaved off.

"Why some animals can fully regenerate organs when others cannot is a longstanding mystery of biology," said one of the study authors George Daley of the Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

"Our studies support the concept that mammalian tissue repair can be substantially improved by engineering the reactivation of genes that regulate juvenile developmental stages."

The second study from the University of Texas, Dallas of the IMP1 gene showed similar results, with the gene producing a protein that binds to RNA molecules, promoting the renewal of stem cells.

The researchers were highly optimistic about the findings.

"It sounds like science fiction, but Lin28a could be part of a healing cocktail that gives adults the superior tissue repair seen in juvenile animals," said Daley.

The Lin28a study was published in the journal Cell.