The elusive search for the fountain of youth has been a story told since the beginning of time. Now, humanity has moved one step closer to discovering the secrets to both eternal youth and illness after scientists identified a revolutionary new procedure that defies the signs of aging and prevents disease.

Here, looks at scientific research that proves manipulating cells can turn back aging and help prevent the onset of disease.

Researchers at Stanford University of Medicine have pinpointed an area in our DNA linked to aging and disease and have managed to increase the length of human telomeres, the areas at the end of each chromosome that protect it from deterioration or fusion with nearby cells.

According to the Stanford University website, Scientists delivered a modified ribonucleic acid (RNA) that encodes a telomere-extending protein to cultured human cells. “The treated cells behave as if they are much younger than untreated cells, multiplying with abandon in the laboratory dish rather than stagnating or dying,” the website claims.

Once tested, the procedure enabled skin cells with lengthened telomeres to divide up to 40 times more than untreated cells. Scientists determined that “the research may point to new ways to treat diseases caused by shortened telomeres.”

A paper describing the research was published in the FASEB Journal and the results have sent waves of hope through the scientific community. The breakthrough is an important one because it will improve the ability of researchers to generate large numbers of cells for further study or drug development purposes.

Dr. Helen Blau, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford, and her colleagues pioneered the research after previous work showed that “the muscle stem cells of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy had telomeres that were shorter than those without the disease.” Therefore, the team developed the process of lengthening the telomeres for testing.

The new technique has an important advantage over other methods because it’s temporary. The modified RNA reduces the cell’s immune response to treatment and disappears within 48 hours. In medicine, ensuring the cells don’t go on to divide for eternity is important to prevent further diseases like cancer.

Scientists are now able to manipulate the area of our DNA responsible for aging and disease, helping to treat and prevent age old diseases that have eluded doctors for centuries.

It’s pioneering research like this that will make a bold impact on the lives of millions around the world, not just to those suffering with life threatening diseases, and will also benefit the medical profession as a whole.