Stemming the March of Time: Young stem cells extend the life of aging mice.

Stemming the March of Time: Young stem cells extend the life of aging mice.

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into just about any kind of mature cell type. Although it was known that stem cells from aged animals grew slowly and poorly, it was not clear if this was a consequence or cause of aging.

• A study by University of Pittsburgh researchers just published in Nature Communications showed that aging could be dramatically slowed down in mice engineered to have Progeria, a rare genetic condition of premature aging in humans.

• “We wanted to see if we could rescue these rapidly aging animals, so we injected stem/progenitor cells from young, healthy mice into the abdomens of 17-day-old progeria mice,” Dr. Huard said. “Typically the progeria mice die at around 21 to 28 days of age, but the treated animals lived far longer — some even lived beyond 66 days. They also were in better general health.”

• Surprisingly, although the stem cells did not migrate far from the site of injection, new blood vessels developed in the brain and muscle suggesting that the stem cells secrete factors that could affect development at sites far from their location. The hunt is on for the molecules or chemicals secreted by these stem cells!

• Read more: Muscle-derived stem/progenitor cell dysfunction limits healthspan and lifespan in a murine progeria model. Nature Communications , 2012; 3: 608 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1611

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23 Responses to Stemming the March of Time: Young stem cells extend the life of aging mice.

  1. Tom Lee says:

    The fountain of youth is within reach? They should speed up the research before we all get old.

  2. Rajini Rao says:

    David Haddad , good question! There must have been some technical issue..the duration of the experiment was ❤ weeks. However, they did a whole bunch of experiments showing that the stem cells from young mice could restore function of the aged stem cells from both old mice and progeric mice in vitro (in a dish). Tom Lee , yes they'd better hurry up in my case 😉

    Edit: Old mice live to 3 years of age whereas the progeric mice just live for a few weeks. I guess normal mice would have to be followed for several years with multiple stem cell injections?

  3. Tom Lee says:

    Rajini Rao Not only in your case, but in my case also. Then we don’t have to pay much for our life and health insurance, using the money for traveling instead. Sounds great!

  4. discussed this post with 1 person in a hangout.

  5. Rajini Rao says:

    Kanishka Dissanayake , I’m impressed 🙂 Hope it was fun!

  6. New blood vessels developed in the brain+How will that information be used?

  7. hi rajini, hope what was fun? 🙂

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    If you mean what is the use of new blood flow to the brain..more blood equals more nutrients and better function of the aging brain. Or do you mean what other conditions could be treated with this technology in addition to aging? Perhaps, reverse damage caused by stroke or other brain injury?

  9. Rajini Rao says:

    Kanishka Dissanayake , your discussion of this post at the hangout, what else? 🙂

  10. ha ha..yeah. first time i tried to use the hangout. but thought no one was there but me. of course was fun. took me by surprise though. 🙂

  11. Rajini Rao I am particularly enquiring about stroke survivors. New vessels, flow and repair.

  12. i am microbiologist and the last time i read something about eukaryotes seriously was probably in my bachelors degree time. i always wonder since we microbiologist don’t even understand completely/properly glycolysis regulation in e.coli, how the heck you might probably understand something in stem cells? to me eukaryotic science is like walking in a completely dark room just touching minuscle tips of something you don’t have any idea of what is it. haha. too philosophical question

  13. Very interesting. Great post!

  14. Jochen Fromm says:

    Stem cells are quite dangerous because they can lead to cancer stem cells and cancer itself.

  15. Rajini Rao says:

    Jochen Fromm , the origin of cancer stem cells (CSC) is still under debate and several pathways may coexist. CSC’s can come from stem cells or from progenitor cells that have already been committed or even from somatic cells that de-differentiate and acquire stem-like properties. It’s quite a sweeping generalization to dismiss stem cells as dangerous. That would be ignoring their potential in regenerative medicine, as this study showed.

  16. Rajini Rao says:

    David Haddad , as with all cell based approaches in regenerative medicine, immunological responses will have to be considered. If the source is from the patient’s own reservoir, it would be safest.

    Why was this not tried before? A major technical challenge would have been to isolate enough of the adult stem cells from muscle, not so much from healthy young mice but from the old and progeric animals. These are fewer in number and less potent in function. Before injecting cells into an animal, they would need to be studied in vitro, to test for therapeutic potential. A large portion of the paper was devoted to proving this. Also, not all progenitor cells are they same, and indeed they found that mouse embryonic stem cells were not able to rescue aging of progeric mice.

    Since these particular type of progenitors come from skeletal muscle, I suspect that the researchers really intended to use them to reverse degenerative muscle disease, like muscular dystrophy. I guess they used progeric mice because their muscles atrophy early, and they noticed the aging effect. Clinical trials are already ongoing (not for aging, but for muscle and other diseases), but there are also a lot of questions that need to be first addressed at a basic level.

    Finally, this paper is only one of hundreds of such promising advances. A search for “stem cell transplantation” in PubMed gives >60,000 papers. The ones that get written up are the ones that are particularly well done (or published in a high impact journal!).

  17. Jochen Fromm says:

    I believe stem cells are potentially dangerous because they are powerful. Imagine s.o. benefits from regenerative medicine, but increases the risk of getting cancer (because the chance to develop CSCs increases). This would be terrifying. Can we be sure this does not happen?

  18. Rajini Rao says:

    Every therapy carries both risks and benefits. They would have to be weighed to determine the best course. Organ transplants need immune suppression which can increase the risk of cancer too (as happened for Steve Jobs). In his case, the liver transplant was ill advised, since he already had cancer. Others would choose transplants if organ failure was imminent. It’s all about choices, isn’t it? That’s no reason to dismiss the most promising therapeutic potential of the past decade.

  19. what is the harm in it,they are not eating,like some instances.

    being used in the walfare of humen being,being humen.

  20. Abhishek Sur says:

    Before I start to put my foot in it, my background is biology is high-school so I may be way off the mark

    Anyway, the ailment progeria comes to mind whenever I read about treatments such as these.

    If it is true that the cause of progeria was discovered to be a point mutation in the LMNA gene, would it be possible to use that same mechanism as a sort-of biochemical switch (together with stem-cell treatment) to accelerate/decelerate the march of time together?

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Abhishek Sur , the best known form of progeria, known as Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome is caused by mutations in LMNA, which codes for a protein called Lamin A. The nucleus structure is affected by the mutation. There are some experimental treatments in trial now. The progeric mice used in the study described in my post had mutations in DNA repair enzymes that also cause premature aging.

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