A new study published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine demonstrates how mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) not only protect the heart from further damage after a cardiac incident but can actually slow down its aging process, too. “This study is important as it suggests an alternative approach for treating heart failure in elderly patients,” said Yanjie Lu, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the pharmacology department at Harbin Medical University (HMU) in Harbin, China, and a world-renowned expert on myocardial infarction. He led the study, conducted by colleagues at HMU.
Aging is a complex and multifaceted process, resulting in damage to molecules, cells and tissue that in turn leads to declining organs. Mesenchymal stem cells, found in bone marrow, can generate bone, cartilage and fat cells that support the formation of blood and fibrous connective tissue. These stem cells also can be coaxed in the laboratory into becoming a variety of cell types, from cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) and neurons, to osteoblasts, smooth muscle cells and more.
Several studies have already shown that MSCs can reverse age-related degeneration of multiple organs, restore physical and cognitive functions of aged mice, and improve age-associated osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease and atherosclerosis.
This study helps unravel the efficacy of these cells in fighting cardiac aging and delineates the underlying mechanisms,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., editor of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “The results suggest a promising therapeutic approach for treating heart failure in the elderly population.”
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