A new research found that stem cells can halt ageing and even prolong lifespans up to three times. An experiment of University of Pittsburgh scientists proved that a single injection of stem cells could make mice live three times as long.
The injection also made the mice grow bigger and stronger.
Scientists think that studying the proteins within stem cells might hold the key to injections that offer a “shot of youthful vigour” to human beings.
The researchers say further research could help us hold off the ageing process altogether.
The effect was even visible on cells in a lab dish where young stem cells were placed next to prematurely ageing cells.
The sick, ageing cells performed better after being placed next to the healthy ones.
The researchers conducted experiments on mice modified to age prematurely, a condition known as progeria.
Progeria also occurs in humans.
Giving these mice shots of stem cells from young, healthy counterparts allowed them to live up to three times longer than those with progeria.
Their experiment saw them first study the stem cells of the progeria sufferers.
The scientists saw there was a difference between the cells in the mice with the ageing disorder – they had fewer, the ones they had regenerated less quickly than ordinary mouse stem cells.
However, injecting stem cells into 17 day-old mice saw a huge increase in their lifespans – from an average of just 21-28 days to more than 66 days, three times longer than usual.
The modified mice given stem cell shots grew almost as large as their healthy counterparts and grew new blood vessels in their brains and muscles.
Scientists think this is because the healthy stem cells helped correct abnormalities in the cells of the rapidly-ageing mice.
Study author Dr. Laura Niedernhofer, whose findings were published in journal Nature Communications said: “Our experiments showed that mice that have progeria, a disorder of premature aging, were healthier and lived longer after an injection of stem cells from young, healthy animals.”
“That tells us that stem cell dysfunction is a cause of the changes we see with aging.”
Dr. Laura Niedernhofer added: “As the progeria mice age, they lose muscle mass in their hind limbs, hunch over, tremble, and move slowly and awkwardly.
“Affected mice that got a shot of stem cells just before showing the first signs of ageing were more like normal mice, and they grew almost as large.
“Closer examination showed new blood vessel growth in the brain and muscle, even though the stem/progenitor cells weren’t detected in those tissues.
“In fact, the cells didn’t migrate to any particular tissue after injection into the abdomen.
“This leads us to think that healthy cells secrete factors to create an environment that help correct the dysfunction present in the native stem cell population and aged tissue.
“In a culture dish experiment, we put young stem cells close to, but not touching, progeria stem cells and the unhealthy cells functionally improved.”