Monday, 25 March 2013

Researchers rejuvenate the blood of old mice

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden published a few days ago a study in which they successfully rejuvenated the blood of old mice, by reprogramming their blood-forming stem cells using iPSCs technology.

According to Martin Wahlestedt, chief author of the study, the ageing process is the result of several changes in our stem cells, accumulating as time passes by. He adds that some of these changes are irreversible, however other changes, called epigenetic changes, may be reversible by reprogramming stem cells.

"When the stem cells are re-programmed, as we have done, the epigenetic changes are cancelled.” said Wahlestedt.

In this study, the researchers focused in the blood composition of old mice. In young specimen the blood has a specific ratio of B-cells, T-lymphocytes and myeloid cells. However, the blood of aged specimen is characterised by reduced numbers of B-cells and T-lymphocytes and an increased number of myeloid cells.


Image of a T-Cell
A T-cell


In their experiments, Wahlestedt and his team used iPSCs technology to rejuvenate stem cells taken from old mice. Specifically, they first generated induced pluripotent stem cells from the mice's hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and then they prompted them into re-becoming HSCs. It was later found that this process negated many traits associated with hematopoietic stem cell aging, essentially the new HSCs were younger compared to the original ones.

Wahlestedt explains that one of the possible applications of their findings lies in the treatment of older people requiring a hematopoietic stem cell transplant, for instance leukaemia victims

"A critical factor that gives an indication of whether the procedure is going to work or not is the age of the bone marrow donor. By reversing the development of the stem cells in the bone marrow, it may be possible to avoid negative age-related changes."

Finally, the researchers said that despite the great similarities shared by human and mouse blood their research is still on its very early stages, far from any human applications in the near future. Still, they are very excited with their findings as they indicate that the process if ageing may actually be reversible by cancelling epigenetic changes.


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Reference
Wahlestedt, M., Norddahl, G., Sten, G., Ugale, A., Micha Frisk, M., Mattsson, R., Deierborg, T., Sigvardsson, M., & Bryder, D. (2013). An epigenetic component of hematopoietic stem cell aging amenable to reprogramming into a young state Blood DOI: 10.1182/blood-2012-11-469080

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