UK researchers have developed a method to ‘time jump’ human skin cells by 30 years, turning back the ageing clock for cells without losing their specialised function.

The new method overcomes the problem of entirely erasing cell identity by halting reprogramming part of the way through the process.

The team from the Babraham Institute at University of Cambridge has been able to partly restore the function of older cells.

The new method overcomes the problem of entirely erasing cell identity by halting reprogramming part of the way through the process.

Though the findings, published in the journal eLife, are at an early stage of exploration, it could revolutionise regenerative medicine.

In 2007, Shinya Yamanaka was the first scientist to turn normal cells, which have a specific function, into stem cells which have the special ability to develop into any cell type.

The full process of stem cell reprogramming takes around 50 days using four key molecules called the Yamanaka factors.

The new method, called ‘maturation phase transient reprogramming’, exposes cells to Yamanaka factors for just 13 days. At this point, age-related changes are removed.

The partly reprogrammed cells were given time to grow under normal conditions, to observe whether their specific skin cell function returned.

This is a promising sign that one day this research could eventually be used to create cells that are better at healing wounds.