Science & Tech

Scientists say they’ve worked out how to stop the ageing process

Scientists say they’ve worked out how to stop the ageing process
Tech mogul Bryan Johnson, 45, 'spends $2 million per year to get …

The likes of Bryan Johnson may spend millions putting off that great inevitable – getting old – but researchers think they’ve come up with their own way to stop the process.

The experts, led by Dr Ádám Sturm and Dr Tibor Vellai of Hungary’s Eötvös Loránd University, have identified specific parts of DNA that are behind ageing.

The team say these parts, known as “transposable elements” (TEs) move around in our genetic code.

When they move too much, they destabilise the genetic code, and this can cause ageing.

The good news is, Sturm, Vellai and their colleagues have worked out a way to help control these pesky TEs.

In fact, this action – called the Piwi-piRNA pathway – already occurs naturally in certain cells that don’t age, such as cancer stem cells and in the legendary Turritopsis dohrnii, commonly known as the "immortal jellyfish."

The scientists in Budapest managed to strengthen this pathway in a worm and found that it lived 30 per cent longer as a result.

In so doing, Sturm and Vellai proved that controlling the activity of TEs can, indeed, extend lifespan – an exciting prospect that could one day benefit us humans.

American billionaire Bryan Johnson reportedly spends $2 million a year to keep himself young(@bryanjohnson_/Instagram(

In a statement, Sturm noted that the relatively simple act of quieting down the TEs or enhancing the Piwi-piRNA pathway elements, led him and his colleagues to observe a “statistically significant lifespan advantage.”

This, he said: “Opens the door to a myriad of potential applications in the world of medicine and biology."

To carry out their work, the researchers used techniques to "downregulate" (calm down) the activity of TEs.

When they did this to specific TEs in the worms, the subjects showed signs of slower ageing. Plus, when multiple TEs were controlled simultaneously, this further increased the lifespan-extending effects.

In addition, the team found epigenetic changes (changes in gene function) in the DNA of these worms as they aged, specifically in the TEs.

Emphasising the potential implications of this discovery, Vellai said: "This epigenetic modification may pave the way for a method to determine age from DNA, providing an accurate biological clock."

In other words, by better understanding these DNA elements and the systems that control them, scientists could soon establish ways to extend our lives and improve our health in our later years.

Bryan Johson, eat your heart out.

Sturm and Vellai's research was published in the journal Nature Communications in August 2023.

Sign up for our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

How to join the indy100's free WhatsApp channel

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings

The Conversation (0)