Rejuvenated Stem Cells Taken from Centenarian

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Last Tuesday, several scientists claimed that they had transformed several age-worn cells from people aged over 90 years old, including one centenarian, into rejuvenated stem cells that were already “indistinguishable” from those cells found on embryos. This medical feat has been reported in the peer reviewed journal Genes and Development, which paved a new path toward regenerative medicine. This is very important most especially in dealing with the elderly.

“This is a new paradigm for cell rejuvenation,” according to Jean-Marc Lemaitre, a researcher at the Institute of Functional Genomics at the University of Montpellier. Lemaitre, who is also the head author of the study, said that, “The age of cells is definitely not a barrier to reprogramming.”

The human embryonic cells have been said to have the ability to differentiate into any type of cell in the body and has given people the promise of curing diseased organs or tissues, through repair or replacement using healthy, lab-grown stem cells. However, transitioning from this theory into medical application has become very difficult due to ethical and moral issues. Such procedure has been the target of many ethical and human rights group because doing so entails the destruction of a human embryo in order to acquire the said stem cells.

Last 2007, it has been discovered that there is a possibility to coax certain adult cells back to their immature/ pre-differentiated state. This also led to theories about refueling these cells into differentiated tissues like muscles, heart or even brain cells, using raw material from the patient himself.

To date, many experiments have shown that the chemical process for regenerating these old cells into pluripotent stem cells does not work well or not very much accepted by the cells of the elderly people. This phenomenon is due to cellular senescence, a natural cell process which is connected to cell aging and is also responsible for triggering cell death. This occurs when certain mechanisms of the cell has become too exhausted, stressed out and unable to function properly.

Lead author Lemaitre and his colleagues have decided to change the standard genetic starter kid which is sued to generate adult stem cells by adding two new ingredients—the NANOG and the LIN28. These elements are referred to as transcription factors.

Experiments using this new genetic starter kit has been shown to positively work, especially with human subjects aged 74 to 101. Several markers of the aging cells were observed to have been reset, which also includes the size of the telomeres—which are tiny protective caps on the end of each chromosome which wear down as one ages.

Telomeres and telomerase, which is the enzyme of the said cellular organelle, are key agents in a cell’s longevity. Each time a cell divides through mitosis, the telomeres wear down a bit and the telomerase works by partially rebuilding it. When the telomeres are finally worn out and unable to be repaired anymore, the cell dies.

“The age markers in the cell has been erased,” shared Lemaitre. “The iPSC stemcells we got can produce functional cells of all types with a capacity to proliferate and enhance longevity.”




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