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What Was Old Is New Again: Stanford’s Anti-Aging Study

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Posted on Apr 09, 2020, 2 p.m.

As far as rejuvenation goes anyone over the age of 40 who is feeling those little aches and pains creep in and is becoming more aware that the world is more sore than it used to be this new study from the researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine will be right up your alley. 

According to the study published in Nature Communications the researchers suggest to have figured out how to rejuvenate old human cells using stem cell technology, and that they have made some once old mice to appear seemingly young again in the process. 

"When iPS cells are made from adult cells, they become both youthful and pluripotent," said Vittorio Sebastiano, PhD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and the Woods Family Faculty Scholar in Pediatric Translational Medicine. "We've wondered for some time if it might be possible to simply rewind the aging clock without inducing pluripotency. Now we've found that, by tightly controlling the duration of the exposure to these protein factors, we can promote rejuvenation in multiple human cell types."

"We are very excited about these findings," said study co-author Thomas Rando, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences and the director of Stanford's Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging. "My colleagues and I have been pursuing the rejuvenation of tissues since our studies in the early 2000s revealed that systemic factors can make old tissues younger. In 2012, Howard Chang and I proposed the concept of using reprogramming factors to rejuvenate cells and tissues, and it is gratifying to see evidence of success with this approach." Chang, MD, PhD, is a professor of dermatology and of genetics at Stanford.

In plain terms they made old human cells appear to be as good as new by introducing them to a mixture of proteins involved in embryonic development. The approach was used in mouse testing which yielded rejuvenating results finding that the elderly mice had regained youthful vigor after having their existing muscle stem cells treated with the protein mixture and then injected back into their bodies. 

The protein mixture behind the promising results are called Yamanaka factors, and they are commonly used in regenerative medicine and drug discovery to turn adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells; these iPS cells are specially because regardless of where they originally came from they can be modified to become almost any type of cell within the body. 

When old human cells were induced in a lab dish to briefly express these proteins from early embryonic development many “molecular hallmarks of aging” were reversed and in the process rendered the treated cells virtually “indistinguishable from their younger counterparts” according to the researchers. 

“We saw a dramatic rejuvenation across all hallmarks but one in all the cell types tested,” said the senior author of the study, Vittorio Sebastiano, Ph.D. “But our last and most important experiment was done on muscle stem cells. Although they are naturally endowed with the ability to self-renew, this capacity wanes with age. We wondered, can we also rejuvenate stem cells and have a long-term effect?”

In their next steps lab mice were introduced into the study, and after transplanting protein treated old mice muscle stems cells back into the elderly mice the researchers observed that the animals had regained their muscle strength back to be similar to that which would be typically seen in younger mice. 

Although the team admits that much more work is required before it is ready for humans, their hopes are that these findings will have far reaching implications for anti-aging, longevity, and regenerative research around the globe... To borrow a catchy phrase “What was once old is new again, and somewhere in the X-Men universe the Wolverine is smiling.”

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