Until you actually hit your middle-age years, aging is not much on the radar of most people. So much so that large numbers of people don’t take providing for their retirement years seriously.
Aging and everything that comes with it is something we all want to avoid, forget about, deny, bury, anything except face. Getting older conjures up images of strange-smelling, wrinkled people, on the fringes of life.
Who wants to join that sad congregation? Nobody.
So it comes as no surprise that aging and the prevention of age-related conditions is the subject of numerous research efforts around the globe.
Scientists have been approaching the problem from all sorts of angles, stem cell research being one of the most prominent.
One of the latest involves the rejuvenation of blood stem cells, specifically, hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) – the ones that generate blood cells.
A feature in Futurism on research at the Sweden’s University of Lunds states that “as we age, scientists believe that our cells age, too. Aging blood cells mean we’re more vulnerable to diseases like leukemia, which target those cells specifically.”
The research team working with aging mice as their test subjects, observed the same deterioration of functionality of the blood in the mice. But then they introduced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells — stem cells that can produce any kind of cell not just blood cells to the mice.
The result was astounding.
“The iPS cells served as a ‘reset button’, reprogramming the blood stem cells and sparking a rejuvenation of sorts. Researchers observed that the progenitor HSC cells in the old mice began to produce blood cells functionally similar to those seen in younger mice,” reports Futurism.
The key point:
The HSCs acted like new cells with their original capacity for producing blood cells. It looks like the research results point to the possibility that HSC aging can be reversed by the introduction of iPS cells.
It’s early days. Don’t celebrate never needing a walking stick just yet.
The technique has been tested on mice only and it might not pan out the same for humans, but the findings do hold real hope for treatment of serious blood disorders in the future.
Another finding of the study is that it’s not mutation that’s responsible for blood cell production changes, but rather that it’s due to epigenetics or changes in gene expressions. This information makes the research team hopeful that they may be closer to developing effective treatments for serious blood disorders like leukemia.