Mankind has long yearned to turn back the hands of time. Now after 20 years of research, scientists at the Technion and Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus, along with colleagues in England and Germany, have found a way to make aged human skin young again.

In a study where elderly human skin was grafted onto young mice, the scientists proved that the aging process could be reversed in the skin and other organs by inducing a change in the molecular structure.

If aging is “ultimately a fatal disease whose progress can be slowed and reversed,” wrote the authors in Science Advances (June 24, 2022), then “dissecting the key drivers of human organ aging and developing effective molecular strategies to prevent or even reverse it surely constitutes one of the most fundamental missions of biomedical research.”

Human skin is ideally suited for preclinical aging research but is rarely employed in mainstream studies. Working with immunocompromised young mice to minimize rejection, the Haifa-led team had previously been able to rejuvenate aged human skin grafted onto the mice but were unsure of whether the rejuvenation extended below the epidermis.

To determine this, the mice received  vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A), which normally functions to create new blood vessels during embryonic development or after injury. The scientists found that the VEGF-A induced a molecular rejuvenation that not only revitalized the outer layer of skin but generated the growth of new blood vessels and produced significant improvements in vital biomarker connected to aging.

This groundbreaking study identifies VEGF-A as the first pharmacologically master pathway for human organ rejuvenation and lays the groundwork for important human aging research.