London: A new study has revealed that stem cell dysfunction is a cause of ageing and suggested the possibility of preventing this biological declines with a shot of youthful cells.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine injected rapidly aging mice with stem cell-like progenitor cells derived from the muscle of young, healthy animals.
They then found that instead of becoming infirm and dying early as untreated mice did, animals that got the stem/progenitor cells improved their health and lived two to three times longer than expected.
The finding suggests that stem cell dysfunction is a cause of aging.
Previous research has revealed stem cell dysfunction, such as poor replication and differentiation, in a variety of tissues in old age, but it’s not been clear whether that loss of function contributed to the aging process or was a result of it, explained senior investigators Johnny Huard, Ph.D., and Laura Niedernhofer, M.D., Ph.D.
“Our experiments showed that mice that have progeria, a disorder of premature aging, were healthier and lived longer after an injection of stem cells from young, healthy animals. That tells us that stem cell dysfunction is a cause of the changes we see with aging,” Dr. Niedernhofer said.
Their team examined a stem/progenitor cell population derived from the muscle of progeria mice and found that compared to those from normal rodents, the cells were fewer in number, did not replicate as often, didn’t differentiate as readily into specialized cells and were impaired in their ability to regenerate damaged muscle.
The same defects were discovered in the stem/progenitor cells isolated from very old mice.
“This leads us to think that healthy cells secrete factors to create an environment that help correct the dysfunction present in the native stem cell population and aged tissue,” Dr. Niedernhofer said.
Animals that age normally were not treated with stem/progenitor cells, but the provocative findings urge further research, she added.
They hint that it might be possible one day to forestall the biological declines associated with aging by delivering a shot of youthful vigor, particularly if specific rejuvenating proteins or molecules produced by the stem cells could be identified and isolated.
The study was recently published in Nature Communications.