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Bone drug protects stem cells from ageing

December 17, 2015

Stem cells can be protected from the effects of ageing by a drug currently used to treat patients with osteoporosis, a breakthrough study has found.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield discovered the drug zoledronate is able to extend the lifespan of mesenchymal stem cells by reducing DNA damage.

DNA damage is one of the most important mechanisms of ageing where stem cells lose their ability to maintain and repair the tissues in which they live and keep it working correctly.

The pioneering research shows the drug protects the stem cells from DNA damage enhancing their survival and maintaining their function. Professor Ilaria Bellantuono, from the University's Department of Metabolism, said: "The drug enhances the repair of the damage in DNA occurring with age in stem cells in the bone. It is also likely to work in other stem cells too.

"This drug has been shown to delay mortality in patients affected by osteoporosis but until now we didn't know why. These findings provide an explanation as to why it may help people to live longer.

"Now we want to understand whether the drug can be used to delay or revert the ageing in stem cells in older people and improve the maintenance of tissues such as the heart, the muscle and immune cells, keeping them healthier for longer.

"We want to understand whether it improves the ability of stem cells to repair those tissues after injury, such as when older patients with cancer undergo radiotherapy."

Approximately 50 per cent of over 75 year-olds have three or more diseases at the same time such as cardiovascular disease, infections, muscle weakness and osteoporosis. In the future it is hoped this drug could be used to treat, prevent or delay the onset of such diseases rather than using a mixture of drugs.

Dr Bellantuono added: "We are hopeful that this research will pave the way for a better cure for cancer patients and keeping older people healthier for longer by reducing the risk of developing multiple age-related diseases."

The study, published today in the journal Stem Cells was funded by the Medical Research Council and Arthritis Research UK.
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Notes to Editors

To view the paper in full please visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/stem.2255/abstract

University of Sheffield

With almost 26,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world's leading universities. A member of the UK's prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in. In 2014 it was voted the number one university in the UK for Student Experience by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields. Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

For further information, please visit http://www.sheffield.ac.uk

For further information please contact: Amy Pullan, Media Relations Officer, University of Sheffield, 0114 222 9859, a.l.pullan@sheffield.ac.uk

To read other news releases about the University of Sheffield, visit http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/news

University of Sheffield

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