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In one case, they rejuvenated cells from a woman of 53 to match a 23-year-old’s – thanks in part to pioneers who cloned Dolly the sheep. Researchers hope their time-jump discovery could also lead to treatments for age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s and cataracts. A “surprised and delighted” Professor Wolf Reik, who led the research at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, said it was the first time such a restoration had been seen.

His team’s method, will codeine damage your liver based on cloning Dolly the sheep in 1996, involves adding chemicals to turn adult cells back into stem cells.

Prof Reik said timing was key, before cells lose specialist functions.

He said skin would be the first line of potential applications as “things go wrong with age”.

Prof Reik said: “If you cut yourself when you’re young it heals very quickly but it take longer when you’re older. Burns and skin ulcers can also be quite problematic with advancing age. We’re scanning the horizon and thinking, where are there important impacts of age in human diseases?”

The downside to the discovery is that the method can increase the risk of cancer – but the scientists are confident of fixing that. The study appeared in journal eLife.

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