What if curing old age was possible?

Paris, Sep 28 (EFE).- What if old age were a disease against which action can be taken? This is the conviction of French researcher Jean-Marc Lemaître, who claims to have the key: cell reprogramming, which his team has already successfully tested on human skin.

“When we say that it is normal to age, it is so. But we can do it by being a little younger to continue doing what we have always done in our lives, not having certain deficits and illnesses”, explains in an interview with EFE Lemaître, who has published the book “Guérir la Vieillesse” (“Healing the Old age”).

The director of the French Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Biotherapies (IMRB) is aware of the ethical reluctance towards his research, seen as unnatural by many. But he also knows that his studies respond to a social need: how to age better.

Because for Lemaître it is not about being eternally young, much less becoming immortal. It is about approaching diseases linked to age in a different way. Cure pathologies such as diabetes, osteoarthritis or neurodegenerative diseases by attacking the root of the problem, the aging of cells.

In 2011, he and his team managed to show that it was possible to “rejuvenate” the skin cells of centenarians through reprogramming, which consists of converting any cell in the body into a pluripotent or embryonic stem cell.

“The good thing about this strategy is precisely to remake a cell that will be able to recompose 220 different types of cells that exist in the body. But you have to guide these cells, it’s a colossal job”, warns Lemaître, who is inspired by the studies of the Japanese Shinya Yamanaka, Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2012.

In the Frenchman’s opinion, to address the relevance of a cell therapy that allows a certain number of diseases to be avoided, the first thing is to establish whether the chronological age corresponds to the physiological one. That is, if a 50-year-old person actually lives in the body of a 65-year-old.

“That is possible to discover -precise- with a simple blood sample. Once this finding is made, which results from the lifestyle of the person analyzed (if they are sedentary, if they have a healthy diet,…), the doctor could decide whether or not that patient needs to undergo cell rejuvenation.

But for that, Lemaitre insists that “first it is necessary that old age be considered a disease in itself.” It is not an easy task, especially for ethical reasons.

“People are impregnated by the ghost of immortality, in which God is behind. They have instilled in us since we were little that there is a biological limit imposed by nature”, he says.

The head of the IMRB takes issue with this mentality, which reminds us that we have already challenged what is considered the natural course of life. He also that “we have evolved a lot, for example, in life expectancy and we do not question that.”


Lemaître intends to launch an institute dedicated exclusively to Longevity in Montpellier, the city in the south of France where he is already installed with his team. The goal is to found a new medicine focused on the aging process.

“In Silicon Valley it would be easier,” he sighs, referring to other anti-aging treatments heavily financed by US investors, including plasma transfusions.

But he is not resigned. “Today there are still many opportunities,” she says, pointing to the cover of his book, illustrated with the famous face of Botticelli’s Venus, a symbol of freshness and in the Italian Renaissance.

Antonio Torres del Cerro

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What if curing old age was possible?