This study could be a breakthrough in the treatment of age-related brain disorders such as dementia or Parkinson's, but also in multiple sclerosis. Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered how to produce older stem cells in a younger, healthier state.
As the world-renowned University of England announced, researchers have been able to reverse the aging process of brain cells in rats. The results published in Nature have a profound effect on how we understand the aging process and how we can develop much needed treatments for age-related brain disorders.
Brain stiffening with age
As our body progresses, muscles and joints can harden, which makes daily movements more difficult. Cambridge University research shows that this is the case in our brains as well, and that age-related brain hardening has a significant effect on brain stem cell function, the researchers said.
IN THE VIDEO Researchers rejuvenate rat brain cells
Scientists examined the brains of young and old rats to understand the effect of age-related brain strangulation on oligodendrocyte precursor function (OPC). These cells are a type of brain stem cells that are important for maintaining normal brain function and for the regeneration of the myelin, a layer of fat that surrounds our nerves and is damaged by multiple sclerosis (MS). The effects of age on these cells contribute to MS, but their function also diminishes with age in healthy people.
The older brain cells behaved like the younger ones
To determine if functional loss is reversible in aging OPCs, researchers have transplanted older OPCs from aged rats into the soft, mushroom brains of younger animals. Remarkably, the older brain cells rejuvenated and began to behave like younger, stronger cells.
New materials developed in the laboratory
For further study, researchers at the laboratory developed and used new materials of varying degrees of hardness to grow and study rat brain stem cells in a controlled environment. The materials are designed to be as soft as young or old brains.
To understand how the softness and stiffness of the brain affects cell behavior, the researchers tested Piezo1, a cell surface protein that informs the cell whether the medium is soft or hard.
It was particularly interesting to see that old brain cells, when grown on soft material, began to function as young cells – in other words, they were rejuvenated
explains Dr. Kevin Chalt, co-leader of the study.
MS Research Director Susan Colhaas said: "MS is relentless, painful and disabling." Treatment is urgently needed. "The findings of the Cambridge team on how stem cells age in the brain and how this process can be reversed will have important implications for future treatment as they give us a new purpose to deal with aging and MS, including the ability to to restore lost functions in the brain. "