Cellular reprogramming can reverse the aging that leads to a decline in the activities and functions of mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs). This is something that scientists have known for a while. But what they had not figured out is which molecular mechanisms are responsible for this reversal. A study released today in STEM CELLS appears to have solved this mystery. It not only enhances the knowledge of MSC aging and associated diseases, but also provides insight into developing pharmacological strategies to reduce or reverse the aging process.
The research team, made up of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, relied on cellular reprogramming — a commonly used approach to reverse cell aging — to establish a genetically identical young and old cell model for this study. “While agreeing with previous findings in MSC rejuvenation by cellular reprogramming, our study goes further to provide insight into how reprogrammed MSCs are regulated molecularly to ameliorate the cellular hallmarks of aging,” explained lead investigator, Wan-Ju Li, Ph.D., a faculty member in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation and the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
The researchers began by deriving MSCs from human synovial fluid (SF-MSCs) — that is, the fluid found in the knee, elbow and other joints — and reprogramming them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Then they reverted these iPSCs back to MSCs, in effect rejuvenating the MSCs. “When we compared the reprogrammed MSCs to the non-rejuvenated parental MSCs, we found that aging-related activities were greatly reduced in reprogrammed MSCs compared to those in their parental lines. This indicates a reversal of cell aging,” Dr. Li said.
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