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Mice live up to three times longer after progenitor cell injections

16 January 2012
Appeared in BioNews 640

Stem cell injections have been found to slow down the effects of ageing in mice. Researchers have developed a stem cell treatment that significantly slows down ageing and increases life span in mice with progeria, a rare genetic disease causing advanced ageing. It is hoped the study, published in Nature Communications, will provide clues on longevity that could one day benefit humans.

The researchers injected stem cell-like progenitor cells from the muscle of young, healthy mice into the abdomen of older mice bred with progeria.

Mice with progeria usually only survive for 21 to 28 days. However mice injected with the muscle-derived stem/progenitor cells (MDSPCs) lived two to three times longer, some even living beyond 66 days.

'It was mind boggling', study co-author Dr Johnny Huard told MSN. 'When I saw them I thought, "Oh my God, I must have made a mistake and put the normal mice in the wrong cage". But they were indeed the mice we'd injected with the stem cells'.

The mice were also found to have better general health. As mice with progeria age, they hunch over, tremble, move awkwardly and develop weak muscles in their hind limbs. When researchers injected the MDSPCs into mice with a milder form of the ageing disease, they were found to age like normal mice.

'That tells us that stem cell dysfunction is a cause of the changes we see with aging', said Dr Laura Niedernhofer, study author and associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

On closer examination, the researchers found new blood vessel growth in the brain and muscle, even though the MDSPCs were injected into the abdomen.

'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.

Mice that age normally were not treated with the MDSPC mix, however the findings require further research, urged Dr Niedernhofer. 'In order to stay healthy and functional, your stem cells are really important… We've got to find a way to replace them or improve their function. I think that will be a key goal for staving off a lot of aging-related diseases'.

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