Thursday, 9 May 2013

Merged mice point to new heart failure treatment

Heart failure (also known as congestive heart failure) is one of the most common and debilitating conditions associated with ageing. At present, there is no real cure for the condition and treatments focus on improving the symptoms and preventing the progression of the disease. Today, a new study was published by researchers at Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) that sheds new light on the condition and proposes a potential new treatment option.

Purpose of the study was to identify the existence of factors in the bloodstream with the capacity to rejuvenate aged tissues. To do so, the HSCI researchers used an experimental technique called "heterochronic parabiosis", a surgical procedure during which the circulatory systems of  two or more animals of different ages are joined into one. In this study, they merged the circulatory systems of young and old mice.
Heterochronic parabiosis in mice

One month later, the researchers noticed that the old mice had experienced a reversal in their heart failure symptoms. Next, the researchers screened the mice for molecules that change with age, and found that the levels of a blood hormone known as growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11) were lower in old mice compared to young mice.

"There has been evidence that circulating bloodstream factors exist in mammals that can rejuvenate tissues, but they haven't been identified. This study found the first factor like this" said senior study author of the study Richard Lee

The researchers then injected the old mice with GDF11 which resulted in a reversal of heart failure signs, confirming the rejuvenating capacity of the hormone.

" Treatment of old mice to restore GDF11 to youthful levels recapitulated the effects of parabiosis and reversed age-related hypertrophy, revealing a therapeutic opportunity for cardiac ageing." an extract from the study.

"If some age-related diseases are due to loss of a circulating hormone, then it's possible that restoring levels of that hormone could be beneficial, We're hoping that some day, age-related human heart failure might be treated this way." said Amy Wagers, corresponding author.

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Loffredo, F., Steinhauser, M., Jay, S., Gannon, J., Pancoast, J., Yalamanchi, P., Sinha, M., Dall’Osso, C., Khong, D., Shadrach, J., Miller, C., Singer, B., Stewart, A., Psychogios, N., Gerszten, R., Hartigan, A., Kim, M., Serwold, T., Wagers, A., & Lee, R. (2013). Growth Differentiation Factor 11 Is a Circulating Factor that Reverses Age-Related Cardiac Hypertrophy Cell, 153 (4), 828-839 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.04.015

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