Old human cells return to a more youthful and vigorous state after being induced to briefly express a panel of proteins involved in embryonic development, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The researchers also found that elderly mice regained youthful strength after their existing muscle stem cells were subjected to the rejuvenating protein treatment and transplanted back into their bodies.
The proteins, known as Yamanaka factors, are commonly used to transform an adult cell into what are known as induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells can become nearly any type of cell in the body, regardless of the cell from which they originated. They’ve become important in regenerative medicine and drug discovery.
The study found that inducing old human cells in a lab dish to briefly express these proteins rewinds many of the molecular hallmarks of aging and renders the treated cells nearly indistinguishable from their younger counterparts.
“When iPS cells are made from adult cells, they become both youthful and pluripotent,” said Vittorio Sebastiano, PhD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and the Woods Family Faculty Scholar in Pediatric Translational Medicine. “We’ve wondered for some time if it might be possible to simply rewind the aging clock without inducing pluripotency. Now we’ve found that, by tightly controlling the duration of the exposure to these protein factors, we can promote rejuvenation in multiple human cell types.”
Sebastiano is the senior author of the study, which will be published online March