As we age, we lose the ability to repair damaged tissue. Researchers have found a way to allow stem cell activity to carry on regardless of age.
Stem cells have the unique ability to transform into any cell in our body –such as a muscle, blood or nerve cell- as well as repeatedly replicate.
They are the cells that kick into action when we graze our skin or tear a muscle.
But as we age, our stem cells start to lose this renew and repair ability. But researchers from Ottawa think they have worked out why.
Our body is preprogrammed with signaling pathways which switch on and off during our lifetime. One of these pathways seems to hold the key to stem cell repair activity. Scientists have nicknamed this pathway: JAK/STAT.
When certain drugs were used on JAK/STAT, stem cells in older animals behaved the same as those found in younger animals. This increased the older animals' ability to repair injured muscle and to build new tissue.
Unfortunately the drugs they used had too many side effects so future research aims to find less toxic alternatives.
Finding this pathway paves the way for the development of new drugs to treat currently incurable disorders such as muscular dystrophy.
Price F, von Maltzahn J, Bentzinger C et al. Inhibition of JAK-STAT signaling stimulates adult satellite cell function. Nature Medicine. 7 September 2014 doi:10.1038/nm.3655