Splicing factors ensure genes function as they should, but as we get older they start to work less efficiently or not at all, which restricts the ability of cells to respond to challenges in their environment.
Senescent cells, which can be found in most organs from older people, also have fewer splicing factors, the researchers explain.
Professor Lorna Harries, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Exeter, said: “This is a first step in trying to make people live normal lifespans, but with health for their entire life.
“Our data suggests that using chemicals to switch back on the major class of genes that are switched off as we age might provide a means to restore function to old cells.”
Harries went on to explain that the research proves that the cells can be treated to regain some features of youth.
Dr Eva Latorre, Research Associate at the University of Exeter, who carried out the experiments was surprised by the extent and rapidity of the changes in the cells.
“When I saw some of the cells in the culture dish rejuvenating I couldn’t believe it. These old cells were looking like young cells. It was like magic,” she said.
“I repeated the experiments several times and in each case the cells rejuvenated. I am very excited by the implications and potential for this research.”