Turning Back the Clock With mRNA Telomerase Therapy

Telomere attrition is a potentially reversible hallmark of aging.


An image of telomeres shortening which could lead to DNA damage.An image of telomeres shortening which could lead to DNA damage.

Since its launch in 2016, Rejuvenation Technologies, located in Mountain View, California, has been developing a therapeutic to restore telomeres in humans. The company has been in stealth mode for a number of years, but there is finally some news!

Reversing a decade of telomere loss in one treatment

Rejuvenation Technologies has created a method of using synthetic mRNA to restore telomeres back to a healthy length. This mRNA works by triggering cells to produce telomerase, an important enzyme that maintains telomere length.

Though it has been widely recognized that telomerase elongates telomeres, the ability to quickly and safely extend telomeres using mRNA delivery has only been achieved recently.

Research into this approach began in 2015, when a team that included Rejuvenation’s founders published research showing that telomerase mRNA can reverse telomere shortening [1]. Since then, these researchers have been developing a way to deliver telomerase mRNA to stem cells. They suggest that this mRNA method may reverse around ten years of telomere shortening with just a single treatment.

After some promising results in preclinical studies for lung and liver diseases, the company is now preparing for its first human clinical trials.


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Why is restoring telomere length important?

Telomeres are protective, cap-like structures that act as safeguards on our DNA, preventing the loss of genetic information during cell division. As our cells divide, the telomeres gradually diminish, and when they reach a critically short length, our cells either enter a state of senescence or perish.

Studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between telomere length and both lifespan and healthspan, with telomere shortening being widely acknowledged as a key characteristic of aging. Lifespan.io has consolidated much of what we know about telomeres, telomerase, and aging here:

Telomere shortening is associated with various age-related diseases and a decline in overall health. However, the ability to restore telomeres to a healthy length could potentially reverse these effects and rejuvenate our cells.

The implications of telomere restoration go beyond simply reversing the effects of aging. It could potentially have far-reaching effects on age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and neurodegenerative disorders.


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The use of mRNA telomerase for the restoration of human telomeres could offer a new approach to treatment and prevention. By targeting a fundamental reason we age, it could be used to treat a whole slew of diseases related to telomere loss.

The cancer connection 

Back in the 1990s when telomerase first began to spark interest in the aging research community, the idea that it causes cancer arose.

The fact of the matter is that permanent telomerase activation in cells does support the development of cancer. Indeed, the ability of cells to turn on telomerase and divide indefinitely is one of the ways in which cells become cancerous.

However, healthy stem cells often turn on telomerase transiently during our lives to avoid the harmful effects of shortened telomeres. This is where the crucial term “transient” comes into play, and some researchers have suggested that transient activation of telomerase in stem cells could be the way to have our cake and eat it.

It may be possible to use a strictly controlled transient therapy to spur rejuvenation in stem cells without making them into cancer cells. That way, the stem cells could continue to function and produce more fresh somatic cells to populate our organs and tissues, potentially helping to solve another reason we age: stem cell exhaustion.


An influx of funding

Recently, Rejuvenation Technologies got a boost from a seed funding round of $10.6 million led by Khosla Ventures. According to the linked press release:

The funding will be used to advance its programs to IND approval in fibrotic disease, such as pulmonary fibrosis and liver cirrhosis, as well as early research targeting the immune system. Rejuvenation’s lead candidate targets a key aging mechanism, telomere shortening.

Seeing more and more funding coming into the field in the last few years is a positive sign that confidence in the rejuvenation field is growing. There are now many companies working on solutions to aging and it will likely only take a single major breakthrough to capture public attention.,perhaps this therapy will be the one to achieve that.

It’s still the early days

Based on its positive initial data, Rejuvenation Technologies is now gearing up for its first in-human trials. This crucial step will involve carefully selecting a group of participants to assess the safety and efficacy of the therapy. If successful, this could change the field of aging and rejuvenation research and potentially extend human lifespan.

However, it is important to approach these developments with cautious optimism. While the potential benefits are significant, further research and clinical trials are necessary to fully understand the long-term effects and safety of this therapy.

Additionally, the cost and accessibility of such a treatment will need to be addressed to ensure that it can benefit the widest range of individuals. Fortunately, mRNA vaccines have shown that such things, if proven viable, can be built at a massive scale, just like the recent COVID vaccines have been.

Nonetheless, the progress made by Rejuvenation Technologies is undeniably exciting. As the company moves forward with its first-in-human trials, we eagerly await the results. Here’s hoping for a breakthrough that could change the way we approach aging and age-related diseases.

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[1] Ramunas, J., Yakubov, E., Brady, J. J., Corbel, S. Y., Holbrook, C., Brandt, M., … & Blau, H. M. (2015). Transient delivery of modified mRNA encoding TERT rapidly extends telomeres in human cells. The FASEB Journal, 29(5), 1930.

About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 600 articles on the topic, interviewed over 100 of the leading researchers in the field, hosted livestream events focused on aging, as well as attending various medical industry conferences. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Swiss Monthly, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve is one of three recipients of the 2020 H+ Innovator Award and shares this honour with Mirko Ranieri – Google AR and Dinorah Delfin – Immortalists Magazine. The H+ Innovator Award looks into our community and acknowledges ideas and projects that encourage social change, achieve scientific accomplishments, technological advances, philosophical and intellectual visions, author unique narratives, build fascinating artistic ventures, and develop products that bridge gaps and help us to achieve transhumanist goals. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project.