Scientists who study Parkinson's Disease and other diseases of the nervous system associated with aging haven't been able to create lab versions of these diseases. One problem: neurons created from stem cells which contain risk genes for Parkinson's are too youthful to develop the disease. What to do? Memorial Sloan-Kettering researchers used a mutant version of the progerin gene that causes accelerated aging. By putting mutant progerin into stem cells they were able to accelerate cellular aging to the point that the cells got Parkinson's disease.
When the team treated stem-cell-derived nerve cells with progerin, they witnessed a remarkable effect: The nerve cells began to age rapidly and within a matter of days displayed many signs of cell aging, including DNA damage and changes to cell energy production. “It was pretty shocking,” recalls Dr. Studer. “We thought we might get one or two markers. No one believed that it was going to work so well.”
Next the researchers made stem cells from individuals with Parkinson’s disease and generated the type of nerve cell that dies off in Parkinson’s. When the nerve cells were treated with progerin, they developed the characteristic features of Parkinson’s and began to degenerate.
This makes it easier to figure out why some genetic variants increase the risk of Parkinson's disease and to try out methods to block the disease's progression. This method might also be useful for investigating the mechanisms which cause Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Stem cell therapies by themselves will not be enough for full brain rejuvenation. We need our memories and structure that existing neurons give us. Plus, older cells are probably a source of toxins to neighboring cells. We need ways to selectively fix or kill old cells.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2014 January 02 09:27 PM|