Aging-related degeneration can be caused by defects of energy metabolism in tissue stem cells

3.1.2012
The findings of the researchers at the University of Helsinki increase the understanding of mechanisms of aging-related degeneration. The results are a breakthrough in revealing the unexpected importance of energy metabolism in regulating stem cell function and tissue maintenance.

The research group of Professor Anu Suomalainen Wartiovaara at the University of Helsinki, with their collaborators in Max Planck Institute, Karolinska Institutet and University of Wisconsin, found out that aging-related tissue degeneration can be caused by mitochondrial dysfunction in tissue stem cells.

The results were published in Cell Metabolism.

Already in 2004 and 2005 a research model was created in Sweden and USA, which accumulated a heavy load of mitochondrial genome defects. This led to symptoms of premature aging: thin skin, graying of hair, baldness, osteoporosis and anemia.

In the current publication, scientist Kati Ahlqvist in the research group of Wartiovaara showed that these symptoms were partially explained by stem cell dysfunction. The number of stem cells did not reduce, but their function was modified: the progeny cells in blood and the nervous system were dysfunctional. 

The researchers also found out that these defects could be partially prevented by early antioxidant treatment. 

– This suggests that oxygen radicals can regulate stem cell function and that these cells are very susceptible for mitochondrial dysfunction. These findings are a breakthrough in revealing the unexpected importance of energy metabolism in regulating stem cell function and tissue maintenance, Professor Wartiovaara says.