Page URL:

Old stem cells exposed to a young environment can be rejuvenated

5 September 2011
Appeared in BioNews 623

Exposure to a youthful environment may help old cells feel alive again - as the work of Professor Xiaodong Chen and co-workers from the University of Texas Health Science Center, USA, suggests.

Professor Chen's team studied the effects of ageing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in an extracellular matrix (ECM) produced by young cells. 'These cells have big potential for tissue regeneration, but generally their quality and quantity decreases with age', explained Professor Chen.

MSCs are a type of adult stem cell that have retained the capacity to regenerate into bone, cartilage and fat cells that support the formation of connective tissue. In recent years, the transplantation of a patient's own MSCs has been used to regenerate bone, cartilage and even artificial trachea. This method avoids the possibility of organ rejection, which is one of the major drawbacks of tissue transplantation. However, as MSCs lose their regenerative ability with age it means autologous transplants are less likely to succeed in adults than in children.

It is known that the external environment of the cells, the ECM, plays a key role in cell development. It does this by providing nutrients, support and cell differentiation markers. Professor Chen sought to investigate the effect of ageing MSCs in an ECM provided by younger cells to see if their regenerative potential could be renewed.

The researchers took MSCs from the bone marrow of both young (three-month) and old (18-month) mice which were then grown on two types of ECM - one from a young mouse and one from an old. When grown on an ECM derived from a young mouse, both young and old MSCs showed an approximately 16-fold increase in growth, whereas only around a four-fold increase was observed on the ECM from old mice. Professor Chen then implanted artificial bone scaffolds seeded with either the young or the old MSCs into mice.

After eight weeks, it was found that both young and old MSCs grown on a young ECM resulted in the same number of osteoblasts, the bone-producing cells. While the old cells grown on the old matrix produced few or no bone-producing cells.

It is not yet clear how or why the young ECM stimulates regeneration in old MSC cells. Professor Chen suspects it might have to do with the elasticity of the scaffold or its ability to release key nutrients at the right time. Further work is underway to study if similar effects can be observed with human MSCs.

This work was presented at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK.

A youthful environment can rejuvenate old stem cells
New Scientist |  09/11
Rescuing Aged Mesenchymal Stem Cells by Exposure to a Young Extracellular Matrix
SENS Foundation - conference abstract |  31 August 2011
27 March 2017 - by Annabel Slater 
A drug that reverses aspects of ageing has been successfully demonstrated in mice...
11 November 2013 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
A gene normally only expressed in embryos has been shown to improve tissue repair in adult mice...
16 January 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
Stem cell injections have been found to slow down the effects of aging in mice. Researchers have developed a stem cell treatment that significantly slows down aging and increases life span in mice with progeria, a rare genetic disease causing advanced aging...
7 November 2011 - by Oliver Timmis 
Progeria, an extremely rare genetic disease that is commonly used as model for ageing, could be treated with an existing drug...
12 September 2011 - by Daniel Malynn 
Presenter Liz Bonnin investigates stem cells, and their pioneering use in organ donation. Bonnin's introduction the segment covers briefly, but accurately, the 30 years worth of history of stem cell research, and the controversy around embryonic stem cell research...
16 August 2010 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
An 11-year-old boy has returned home after becoming the first child to undergo a pioneering surgery which used his own stem cells to rebuild his windpipe. The operation, which took place in March this year at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, has been hailed as 'a success'...
22 March 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
A UK child has become the world's first to receive a full windpipe transplant using an organ built from his own stem cells...
12 May 2009 - by Paul Martin and Emma Rowley 
Regenerative medicine, including stem cells and tissue engineering, holds great hope for the future in terms of addressing the unmet health needs of patients. In particular, much attention has been paid to the potential of novel stem cell based therapies following a series of major scientific breakthroughs and media reports...
28 April 2003 - by BioNews 
Scientists have discovered that injections of (adult) stem cells taken from patient's own bone marrow can be used to help them recover from heart failure. The technique was tested on 21 people with so-called 'end stage' heart failure, and it was found that the health of 13 of those was...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.