A recent investigation has concluded that adult stem cells can be rejuvenated, simply by growing them in a youthful environment – at least in mice that is. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are found in adult bone marrow, and have the potential to differentiate into a range of different cell types, including bone, muscle, kidney and nerve cells. Although MSCs have recently been used to grow new trachea on artificial scaffolds (see wacky scientist) their widespread use in regenerative medicine has been limited.
These cells have big potential for tissue regeneration, but unfortunately their quality decreases with age. Several recent studies have shown that the mechanical properties of the matrix in which MSCs are grown can affect the type of cell they turn into.
The team conducting the research took MSCs from the bone marrow of 3-month-old and 18-month-old mice, and grew these cells on an extracellular matrix which makes up connective tissue – for seven days. Half the young cells were grown on an ECM taken from a 3-month-old mouse, and half on an ECM from a 18-month-old mouse. The same was true of the older cells.
Young and old cells showed a 16.1 and 17.1 fold expansion respectively when grown on an ECM from young mice, compared to a 4.1 fold and 3.8 fold expansion when grown on an ECM from old mice.