'Fountain of youth' technique rejuvenates aging stem cells

November 27, 2012

Toronto, ON (27 November, 2012) -- A new method of growing cardiac tissue is teaching old stem cells new tricks. The discovery, which transforms aged stem cells into cells that function like much younger ones, may one day enable scientists to grow cardiac patches for damaged or diseased hearts from a patient's own stem cells--no matter what age the patient--while avoiding the threat of rejection.

Stem cell therapies involving donated bone marrow stem cells run the risk of patient rejection in a portion of the population, argues Milica Radisic, Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto.

One method of avoiding the risk of rejection has been to use cells derived from a patient's own body. But until now, clinical trials of this kind of therapy using elderly patients' own cells have not been a viable option, since aged cells tend not to function as well as cells from young patients.

"If you want to treat these people with their own cells, how do you do this?"

It's a problem that Radisic and her co-researcher, Dr. Ren-Ke Li, think they might have an answer for: by creating the conditions for a 'fountain of youth' reaction within a tissue culture.

Li holds the Canada Research Chair in Cardiac Regeneration and is a Professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, cross-appointed to IBBME. He is also a Senior Scientist at the Toronto General Research Institute.

Radisic and Li first create a "micro-environment" that allows heart tissue to grow, with stem cells donated from elderly patients at the Toronto General Hospital.

The cell cultures are then infused with a combination of growth factors--common factors that cause blood vessel growth and cell proliferation--positioned in such a way within the porous scaffolding that the cells are able to be stimulated by these factors.

Dr. Li and his team then tracked the molecular changes in the tissue patch cells. "We saw certain aging factors turned off," states Li, citing the levels of two molecules in particular, p16 and RGN, which effectively turned back the clock in the cells, returning them to robust and healthy states.

"It's very exciting research," says Radisic, who was named one of the top innovators under 35 by MIT in 2008 and winner of the 2012 Young Engineers Canada award.

Li and Radisic hope to continue their goal to create the most effective environment in which cells from older patients can be given new life. "We can create much better tissues which can then be used to repair defects such as aneurysms," Li says, as well as repairing damage caused by heart attacks.

The study was recently released in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the top journal in the field of cardiovascular medicine.
-end-
About IBBME

The Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) is an interdisciplinary unit situated between three Faculties at the University of Toronto: Applied Science and Engineering, Dentistry and Medicine. The Institute pursues research in four areas: neural, sensory systems and rehabilitation engineering; biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine; molecular imaging and biomedical nanotechnology; medical devices and clinical technologies.

University of Toronto

Related Stem Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.

More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.

First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.

Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.

The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.

New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.

NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.

Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.

Read More: Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.