Scientists have recently succeeded in rejuvenating cells from elderly donors (aged over 100). Using a in vitro reprogramming technique, cells were changed into basic cells (iPSc’s and hESC’s). After this genuine “rejuvenation” therapy, these basic cells of all types can be differentiated again. The results indicate a significant step forwards for regenerative medicine.
Jean-Marc Lemaitre, Inserm researcher at the Functional Genomics Institute, and his team performed the research. The results were published in Genes & Development on November 1, 2011.
Human embryonic stem cells (hESC) are undifferentiated multiple-function cells. They can divide and form all types of differentiated adult cells in the body (neurons, cardiac cells, skin cells, liver cells, etc.). Since 2007, a handful of research teams across the world have been capable of reprogramming human adult cells into induced pluripotent cells (iPSC), which have similar characteristics and the same potential as human embryonic stem cells (hESC). This kind of reprogramming makes it possible to reform all human cell types, without the ethical restrictions related to using embryonic stem cells.
The researchers have successfully rejuvenated cells from elderly donors, some over 100 years old, thus demonstrating the reversibility of the cellular aging process. To achieve this, they used an adapted strategy that consisted of reprogramming cells using a specific “cocktail” of six genetic factors, while erasing signs of aging.
“Our strategy worked on cells taken from donors in their 100s. The age of cells is definitely not a reprogramming barrier.” Lemaitre concluded. “This research paves the way for the therapeutic use of iPS, insofar as an ideal source of adult cells is provided, which are tolerated by the immune system and can repair organs or tissues in elderly patients.” the researcher concludes.
Lapasset L, Milhavet O, Prieur A, Besnard E, Babled A, Aït-Hamou N, Leschik J, Pellestor F, Ramirez JM, De Vos J, Lehmann S, & Lemaitre JM (2011). Rejuvenating senescent and centenarian human cells by reprogramming through the pluripotent state. Genes & development, 25 (21), 2248-53 PMID: 22056670