Pitt stem-cell research lengthens lifespan for mice

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A special breed of mice lived up to three times longer than normal after University of Pittsburgh researchers injected them with stem cells from younger, healthy mice, according to a study being published today in the journal Nature Communications.

Working with mice that are bred to die prematurely, Pitt researchers led by Johnny Huard and Laura Niedernhofer dramatically increased the animals' lifespans by injecting them in the abdomen with young animals' muscle stem cells.

Stem cells are found throughout the body, and have the ability to grow rapidly and develop into different types of cells. As animals and humans get older, their stem cells tend to function less well, contributing to the aging process.

The Pitt researchers worked with mice bred to have progeria, a premature aging condition. These mice typically die after 21 to 28 days, but the animals injected with the youthful stem cells lived much longer, with some surviving past 66 days.

The scientists found signs of new blood vessel growth in the brains and muscles of the injected mice, even though there was no sign of the stem cells themselves beyond the injection site.

That led them to speculate that the stem cells are secreting some proteins or other factors that boost rejuvenation. That holds out hope that one day, it might be possible to stave off the effects of aging in humans with injections of critical proteins.

Mark Roth: mroth@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1130.


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