Embryonic Stem Cells
A microscopic view shows a colony of human embryonic stem cells (light blue) growing on fibroblasts (dark blue) in this handout photo released to Reuters by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, March 9, 2009. Reuters/Alan Trounson/California Institute for Regenerative Medicine/Handout

In scientists’ search for the secret to anti-aging, they have pinpointed an embryonic stem cell gene that could restore the regenerative properties of adult stem cells. Researchers at the University at Buffalo say the gene Nanog could reverse aging in adult stem cells.

It could also battle premature aging disorders such as progeria, reports Gizmag. Unlike past studies which focused on slowing the aging process by blocking pathways in the brain that produces certain protein complexes, the study, published on Friday in Stem Cells journal, focuses on nonspecialised adult stem cells found throughout the body.

The protein complexes switch back on genes that have been turned off because of epigenetic regulation and activates a gene which increased the lifespan of common fruit flies, according to researchers. By introducing Nanog into aged stem cells, it triggers a chain reaction which helps the cells regain its former regeneration abilities.

It does that by Nanog opening two key cellular pathways – the Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) and Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-ß). Actin, which are dormant proteins, are reactivated as a result of Nanog opening the two pathways. Once activated, it provides the stem cell with structure needed to form muscle cells which can contract. The cells generate force to help improve regeneration capabilities of adult stem cells.

The research team tested three different cell samples aged in different way – taken from aged donors, aged in lab culture and isolated from patients with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome that causes people to age at a faster pace. In all three cases, the Nanog gene worked.

In effect, the gene kicked into action dormant cellular processes which are the key to prevent weak bones, clogged arteries and other indicators of growing old. Dr Stelios Andreadis, lead author of the research and chair of UB School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, says, “Our research into Nanog is helping up to better understand the process of aging and ultimately how to reverse it.”

Video: What can stem cells do?

Source: Life Noggin