So what's the cost of eternal youth? To be precise, it's $62,692.
Starting today, Britons with that kind of money lying around will be able to freeze their own healthy cells for potential use decades later.
The service is being rolled out by Scéil, part of Cellectis, a French biotechnology firm. Company officials say it's based on the work of Shinya Yamanaka, the scientist who won the Nobel Prize in 2012 for discovering how mature cells could be reprogrammed to become induced pluripotent stem cells -- or iPS cells.
iPS cells are unusual in that they can develop into any cell type. They also can be derived from adult cells at any time of life. Even so, given the fast rate at which cell DNA degenerates (the human body accumulates about 1.8 million DNA mutations per second), Scéil’s experts have recommended taking this step sooner rather than later to ensure the healthiest possible cells are stored.
The iPS cells are kept at -180°C for as long as needed for potential future use as soon as regenerative medicine treatments become available. Called the "next evolution of medical treatments," regenerative medicine is the process of replacing or regenerating human cells, tissues and organs to restore or establish normal function.
“Scéil offers people the best possible chance in the future. People should be able to ‘live young’, no matter how old they grow," said André Choulika, CEO of Scéil, in a press release. "Scéil gives them the opportunity to take advantage of the wave of regenerative medicine. We’re offering the potential for people to use their cells for their cure as soon as regenerative medicine treatments become available.”
He said his company's proud to be the first in the world to make the iPS cell technology available to the public commercially. It's not clear though when this service might be available outside Britain, where the cost is 40,000 British pounds.
Apparently the technology is easy and painless for the individual, with a skin tissue sample taken under local anesthetic. The skin cells are then “rebooted” into iPS cells by Scéil’s biotechnology teams so that they can be stored until they are needed for future medical applications as soon as they become available.
Scéil's service is not the same thing as cord blood banking, in which blood is taken from the umbilical cord for later use to reconstitute blood.
"We believe it’s going to be very popular with a certain class of people who have everything they want but cannot go against aging,” Choulika told The Telegraph. “This is expensive, so only reserved for a certain class of people who can afford it.
“Twenty years ago only rich people had cell phones," he added. "Now everybody has them.”
Earlier this summer, researchers at the University of Sheffield in Britain also said they had uncovered the secret to the fountain of youth: the awakening of "sleeping" stem cells in the skin.
They said that their research -– conducted in collaboration with The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) and published in Nature Scientific Reports -– could pave the way for the development of better treatments to fight wrinkles and perhaps even skin cancer.