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Aging Stem Cells: New Study Sheds Light on Senescence Process

Researchers have found that MECP2, a gene that modifies the chromatin in the cell, has an important role in stem cell aging.

Throughout adulthood, stem cells work to replace mature cells lost to turnover, injury or disease. Some of the genes responsible for keeping stem cells active and productive modify the chromatin, the complex combination of DNA and fibers that make up chromosomes.

Researchers from the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia and the Human Health Foundation in Spoleto, Italy studied the impact of MECP2, one of the chromatin modifier genes whose mutations underlie RETT syndrome, a severe X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder, on mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, multipotent stem cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types. Their findings were published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

“Our studies suggest that MECP2 is a factor whose expression must be tightly regulated to avoid alteration in the cell’s function,” said Dr. Umberto Galderisi, Department of Experimental Medicine, Biotechnology and Molecular Biology Section, Second University of Naples, Italy and lead author of the study. “To be specific, its inhibition induces the senescence, or the aging, phenomena in MSCs.”

MSC’s are of particular interest to researchers, because of the multiple roles that they perform. They support hematopoiesis, or blood production, and contribute to the maintenance of many organs and tissues. Their aging has profound consequences on body physiology.

“Studies on in vitro stem cell senescence can be of interest in order to dissect molecular events leading to a decline of stem cell functions with advancing of age,” said Dr. Antonio Giordano, director of the Sbarro Institute and the Center for Biotechnology at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.

Sbarro Health Research Organization ( funds the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine, a leading nonprofit research center for cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the campus of Temple University, our programs train young scientists from around the globe.

The Human Health Foundation is a nonprofit research foundation devoted to basic medical research and biotechnology located in Spoleto, Italy.

Ilene Rush | Newswise Science News
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