Most people by now have at least heard about he wonders stem cell treatments a number of different medical conditions. Because they have the ability to transform into other cell types, human adult stem cells are becoming the topic of interest for researchers in several different fields.
One of the main duties a stem cell has is to replace other cells that have degraded. Once a person reaches the advanced aging stages of his or her life, even stem cells can become old and non-functional. When these cells that are supposed to replace other cells fails to do their job, the occurrence of age related tissue problems begin.
Recently, a research team at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging working with the Georgia Institute of Technology is on their way to solving the problem of degrading cells due to the aging process with the help of human adult stem cells. This team has experienced great success in reversing the aging process in adult stem cells.
Associate professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging Victoria Lunyak, Ph.D. said, “We demonstrated that we were able to reverse the process of aging for human adult stem cells by intervening with the activity of non-protein coding RNAs originated from genomic regions once dismissed as non-functional ‘genomic junk’.”
As regular cells age, the telomeres, which are the caps at the end of the chromosomes, become shorter. Therefore, the hypothesis is that a lot of age-related issues are caused by the shortening of the telomeres. Since human adult stem cells retain full telomeres, researches had to discover another way that they age.
The team of scientists compared DNA from freshly isolated stem cells that were harvested from young donors with adult stem cells from the same donors that they had accelerated the aging process in a lab. The results showed that the majority of DNA damage in the older cells was caused by activity in the retrotransposons, which is the cell genome. The young cells were able to limit activity and manage damage, but the older cells did not have the same capabilities.
According to associate professor King Jordan, Ph.D. of the School of Biology at Georgia Tech, “We found the majority of DNA damage and associated chromatin changes that occurred with adult stem cell aging were due to parts of the genome known as retrotransposons.” He continued, “Retroransposons were previously thought to be non-functional and were even labeled as ‘junk DNA’, but accumulating evidence indicates these elements play an important role in genome regulation.”
The research team continues to look at rejuvenated stem cells to determine the suitability for the treatment of degenerative disorders often associated with the aging process, such as osteoporosis, metabolic syndromes and arthritis.