Swedish scientists have managed to rejuvenate blood cells for the first time, it has been announced.
It is hoped the breakthrough could herald improvements in the function of human blood stem cells.
It could eventually help in the treatment of diseases such as anaemia, leukaemia and other blood disorders, according to study leader David Bryder, of Lund University.
The research, published in Nature Communications, looked at whether or not blood stem cells age differently within a single individual or if all blood stem cells are equally affected by advancing age.
In the first stage of the research, the team genetically marked old blood stem cells, to enable the identification and tracking of those most affected by age.
Then, these traceable cells were reprogrammed to iPS cells, which can generate all cells in an individual and not only blood cells.
When these reprogrammed iPS cells formed new blood stem cells, the researchers discovered that the re-set led to a rejuvenation of the cells.
First author Martin Wahlestedt said: 'We found that there was no difference in blood-generating capacity when we compared the reprogrammed blood stem cells with healthy blood stem cells from a young mouse.
'This is, as far as we know, the first time someone has directly succeeded in proving that it is possible to recreate the function of young stem cells from a functionally old cell.'
The study shows that many age-related changes in the blood system cannot be explained by mutations in the cells’ DNA because if the changes depended on permanent damage at the DNA level, the damage would still be present after the re-set. Instead, epigenetic changes appear to underlie the decline in function associated with advancing age.
'Our findings justify further research to improve the function of human blood stem cells and thereby address diseases such as anaemia, leukaemia and other blood disorders,' said Bryder.
Source: Wahlestedt M, Erlandsson E, Kristiansen T et al. Clonal reversal of ageing-associated stem cell lineage bias via a pluripotent intermediate. Nature Communications 22 February 2017; doi:10.1038/ncomms14533
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