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Aging of Blood Stem Cells May Be Reversible

Older mice 'rejuvenated' when treated with blood factors from younger mice, researchers found

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have found a way to make old stem cells in the blood act like young stem cells, a discovery that could lead to ways to slow the aging process.

Taking certain factors from the blood of young mice and putting them in old mice made old stem cells take on the characteristics of younger stem cells. In addition, the tissues of the older mice appeared much more "youthful," according to the Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center.

The change in the older stem cells is driven by signals from another type of cell nearby in the bone, the researchers explained. They added that this finding improves understanding of aging of the blood-forming system and points toward blood-based treatments for age-related health problems.

The study findings are published in the Jan. 27 issue of the journal Nature.

"What's most exciting is that the changes that occur in blood stem cells during aging are reversible, through signals carried by the blood itself. This means that the blood system offers a potential therapeutic avenue for age-related stem cell dysfunction," Amy J. Wagers, an associate professor in Harvard's Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, and an investigator at the Joslin Diabetes Center, said in a news release from the center.

The study doesn't directly address diabetes-related mechanisms but "there's more and more evidence of an overlap in the regulatory pathways that are implicated in aging and in type 2 diabetes," Wagers said.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about stem cells.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Joslin Diabetes Center, news release, Jan. 27, 2010

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