Researchers from the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine may have found a way to slow down the aging process by using stem cells.
The scientists conducted a series of experiments on mice affected with progeria - a premature aging disorder. They took stem cells from a healthier mouse and injected it into the test animals.
The results indicated that a mouse injected with the stem cells (and affected with progeria) lived for more than 60 days, compared to a mouse affected with the same disease that had not received the injection.
"We wanted to see if we could rescue these rapidly aging animals, so we injected stem/progenitor cells from young, healthy mice into the abdomens of 17-day-old progeria mice," said Dr. Johnny Huard, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine.
"Typically the progeria mice die at around 21 to 28 days of age but the treated animals lived far longer - some even lived beyond 66 days. They also were in better general health," he added, "We had mice at 45 days and they looked so good, we thought the lab facility had mixed them up with the healthy mice."
"Our experiments showed that mice that have progeria, a disorder of premature aging, were healthier and lived longer after an injection of stem cells from young, healthy animals," explained Laura Niedernhofer, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
"That tells us that stem cell dysfunction is a cause of the changes we see with aging," she added.
Progeria is a rare genetic disorder seen in, approximately, one in eight million children. Those affected tend to die at very young ages because of the accelerated rate at which their bodies age - often eight times faster than normal. Therefore, a 10-year-old child, for example will have the health concerns of an 80-year-old man and can develop respiratory, cardiovascular and arthritic problems.