Scientists have found a way to measure the tiny mechanism within the body’s cells which many believe may hold the key to the ageing process.

The researchers believe the technique will help efforts to pin down the causes of disease such as cancer that become more common as we get older.

It is widely thought that the number of times a cell can divide – and thus reinvigorate tissue – is controlled by the length of a microscopic structure called a telomere.

These structures are found on the end of our chromosomes and in effect stop them from unravelling, acting in the same way as the shiny bit at the end of the bootlace.