Re­searchers de­velop tech­nol­ogy to make aged cells younger

Daily Trust - - DIGEST - By Olayemi John-Men­sah

Re­searchers at Hous­ton Methodist have made a sur­pris­ing dis­cov­ery lead­ing to the devel­op­ment of tech­nol­ogy with the abil­ity to re­ju­ve­nate hu­man cells.

This couldn’t be more im­por­tant for the small pop­u­la­tion of chil­dren who are ag­ing too quickly, chil­dren with proge­ria.

The Chair of the Depart­ment of Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Sciences at Hous­ton Methodist Re­search In­sti­tute, John P. Cooke and his col­leagues, de­scribed their find­ings in a Re­search Let­ter ti­tled “Telom­erase mRNA Re­verses Se­nes­cence in Proge­ria Cells.”

Cooke stud­ied cells from chil­dren with proge­ria, a rare con­di­tion marked by rapid ag­ing that usu­ally robs them of the chance to live be­yond their early teens.

The re­searchers fo­cused on proge­ria, be­cause the con­di­tion tells them a lot about ag­ing in gen­eral that’s ul­ti­mately rel­e­vant to all of us.

“These kids are dy­ing of heart at­tack and stroke at 13, 14, 15 years old.

“Although cur­rent ther­a­pies are use­ful, they only add a year or two, on av­er­age, to the child’s life. We wanted to do some­thing that would im­prove the chil­dren’s qual­ity of life and po­ten­tially al­low them to live longer, so we set about study­ing their cells and see­ing if we could im­prove the cell func­tion,” Cooke said.

They dis­cov­ered that the telom­eres were shorter in chil­dren with proge­ria and thought if they could re­store the telom­ere length, then per­haps they could im­prove the cell func­tion and its abil­ity to di­vide and re­spond to stress.

To do this, the re­searchers used a tech­nol­ogy called RNA ther­a­peu­tics. They were able to get the cells to pro­duce a pro­tein, called telom­erase, that can ex­tend and lengthen the telom­ere. They did this by de­liv­er­ing RNA to the cells that en­codes this pro­tein. Es­sen­tially, they gave the cells the in­for­ma­tion they needed to ex­tend the telom­ere via an RNA de­liv­ery sys­tem and let the cells do the rest.

“What was most un­ex­pected about our work was the dra­matic ef­fect the telom­ere-ex­tend­ing tech­nol­ogy had on the cells,” Cooke said. “We were not ex­pect­ing to see such a dra­matic ef­fect on the abil­ity of the cells to pro­lif­er­ate. They could func­tion and di­vide more nor­mally, and we gave them ex­tra life­span, as well as bet­ter func­tion.”

The re­search team also com­pared their ap­proach at the cel­lu­lar level to the cur­rent ther­a­pies avail­able.

He said many of the dis­eases he sees are due to ag­ing which is a ma­jor risk fac­tor for heart and vas­cu­lar dis­eases.

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