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30 Mar 2015
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Fountain of Youth: Reduce Stress in Stem Cells to Control Ageing

From ancient times, researchers were looking for a remedy to reverse aging which will help in longer lifespan and effective healing. The scientists at the University of California, Berkeley made a breakthrough by identifying a molecular pathway that is critical to aging process and manipulating this pathway can help to make the old blood new again.

Why Stem Cells’ Mitochondrial Pathway Important?

The blood stem cells have the ability to repair a damage caused by inappropriate folding in its mitochondria. This ability to repair is essential for the survival and regenerative capabilities of the cells and thereby crucial in the study of aging process. Mitochondria, the power house of the cells provide energy for all the activities of the cells. It has multitude of proteins that need to be folded properly in order to function correctly. When the folding has any fault, it will result in ‘mitochondrial unfolded protein response’ or UPRmt which produces Sirtuin proteins to fix or remove the improper folding from the mitochondria. A particular stress resistance protein, SIRT7 increases to help the mitochondria cope up with the stress caused by the misfolded proteins. However, the activity of SIRT7 declines with age so if the misfolding occurs, it may lead to increased stress and thereby cell death.

Blood Stem Cells’ Improved Regenerative Capacity

According to the study’s senior author Danical Chen, by slowing down the mitochondrial activity in the blood stem cells, it is possible to enhance their ability to control stress and thereby rejuvenate the old blood cells. During the study, researchers have isolated the blood stem cells from aged mice and increased the levels of SIRT7 and observed a drop in the protein-folding stress. When they transplanted the blood stem cells back into the mice, it showed improved regenerative capability in blood stem cells.

The study shows that the blood stem cells proliferate more with increased mitochondrial activity if SIRT7 is deficient and when we slow things down, we give time for the cells to recover from the stress and rejuvenate. Chen explains this process as stalled car, jamming traffic on a freeway, “When there is a mitochondrial protein folding problem, there is a traffic jam in the mitochondria. If you prevent more proteins from being added to the mitochondria, you are helping to reduce this traffic jam.”

Chen also mentioned that the mitochondrial pathway in blood stem cells will help them give a new target for controlling the process of ageing in humans. This study helps the scientific world to identify the right stress signal in the stem cells and related tissue regeneration to avoid aging in the molecular level.

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