Successful Reverse Aging Process in Rat Brain Stem Cells
New ways to reverse older cells to Younger!
A new study that is published yesterday in Nature, reveals how increasing brain stiffness as we age causes brain stem cell dysfunction as well as demonstrates new ways to reverse older stem cells to a younger, healthier state.
The results of the successful reverse aging process in rat brain stem cells research study have far-reaching implications for how we understand the aging process, and how we might develop much-needed treatments for age-related brain diseases.
Muscles and joints can become stiff as we age, making our everyday movements more and more difficult. This successful reverse aging process research study shows the same is true in our brains. The age-related brain stiffening has a significant impact on the function of our brain stem cells.
A multi-disciplinary scientist team, based at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (University of Cambridge), has studied young and old rat brain cells. This was to understand the impact of age-related brain stiffening and the reverse aging process on the function of brain cells like oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs).
These oligodendrocyte progenitor cells are a type of brain stem cell important for maintaining normal brain function. These cells have a major role in the regeneration of myelin i.e, the fatty sheath that surrounds our nerves, which is damaged in multiple sclerosis (MS). The effects of age on brain stem cells contribute to Multiple Sclerosis as well as their function also declines with age in healthy people.
To understand further and to determine whether the loss of function in aged OPCs was reversible, the researchers transplanted older oligodendrocyte progenitor cells from aged rats into the healthy, soft, spongy brains of younger animals. Remarkably, the researchers found that the older brain cells were rejuvenated. The older brain cells then began to behave just like the younger, more vigorous cells.
To study the reverse aging process further, the researchers developed new materials in the lab with varying degrees of stiffness, toughness. They used these materials to grow and study the rat brain stem cells in a controlled environment. The newly developed materials were engineered to have a similar softness or stiffness to either young or old brains.
In order to understand how brain softness and stiffness influences cell behavior, the scientists investigated Piezo1—a protein found on the cell surface, which informs the cell whether the surrounding environment is soft or stiff.
Dr. Kevin Chalut, who co-led the research, said that the research team was fascinated to see that when they could grow young functioning rat brain stem cells on the stiff material i.e on the cells that became dysfunctional and which had lost their ability to regenerate, and in fact, which began to function like aged cells. It was especially interesting when the old brain cells were grown on the soft material and they began to function like young cells, in other words, they were rejuvenated and a successful reverse aging process occurred.
Professor Robin Franklin, who co-led the research with Dr. Chalut explained that when they removed Piezo1 from the surface of aged brain stem cells, researchers were able to trick the cells into perceiving a soft surrounding environment, even when they were growing on the stiff material. Researchers were able to delete Piezo1 in the OPCs within the aged rat brains, which lead to the cells becoming rejuvenated and once again able to assume their normal regenerative function. Franklin added.
Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research at the MS Society, who part-funded the research, said that the Multiple Sclerosis is relentless, painful, and disabling. The treatments that can slow and prevent the accumulation of this disability over time are desperately needed. The discoveries by Cambridge team on how brain stem cells age and how this process might be reversed have important implications for future treatment. This is because the discoveries made by the research team gives us a new target to address issues associated with aging and MS, including how to potentially regain lost function in the brain, he added.