University of Pittsburgh scientists improved the lifespan of mice with an aging disease by injecting them with normal stem cells, a finding they say underscores the ability of stem cells to repair muscle, bones and injuries.
The mice, which had an aging disease called progeria, lived two to three times longer than expected once they received the stem cells, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.
The stem cells -- derived from the muscle of young, healthy rodents -- did not migrate to other tissue in the body and appear to have secreted a growth factor, or protein, that delayed the aging process. Instead of losing muscle mass and moving slowly, the animals grew as large as normal ones.
Johnny Huard, the project's senior investigator and director of Pitt's Stem Cell Research Center, and Dr. Laura Niedernhofer, a senior investigator and an associate professor in Pitt's Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, are hopeful the animal research can be translated into humans.
Huard told the Tribune-Review that human muscle-derived stem cells could be stored at an early age and used when people age.
"When you turn 30, 35, 40, instead of having all this cosmetic surgery, we can take your cells and then reinject them into you," he said. "We're going to rejuvenate your body, basically. You're going to age, but you're going to age slower than the normal person who doesn't have stem cell transplantation."
The findings were so provocative that the researchers initially thought they made a mistake, Huard said.
"When we do work in the animal facility, sometimes a mix-up can happen," said Huard, also a professor in Pitt's Department of Orthopedics. "Sometimes it's misplaced mice, or maybe they didn't label the cage. I said, 'Oh, my God, we're really doing something very interesting here.' "
Still, it is always prudent to be cautious in extending findings in mouse progeria models to humans, said Amy Wagers, …