Regenerative potential of stem cells falls off with age in horses, study shows

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Stem cells taken from the fat tissue of middle-aged and older horses may not be as effective in regenerating damaged ligaments and cartilage, the findings of fresh research suggest.

A study conducted in Poland showed the toll that age can take on adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs).

In human and veterinary medicine, ASCs are considered as a promising tool to treat a variety of disorders such as bone, cartilage, and spinal cord injury, as well as several metabolic disorders.

Michalina Alicka and her colleagues at the Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences point out that metabolic deterioration and decline in the regenerative potential of tissues are common features of aging.

Tissue regeneration is maintained through the presence of multipotent somatic stem cells like ASCs.

In their study, reported in the journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy, ASCs were isolated from three age-matched horse groups using an enzymatic method.

The horses were classed as young (under 5), middle-aged (aged 5-15) or old (over 15).

Molecular changes were assessed using several techniques, as well as scanning electron microscopy.

The scientists showed that the most important factors for ASC transplantation significantly decreased in horses over 5 years of age. Declines were seen in survival potential, proliferation activity, and expressions of genes involved in stem cell homeostasis and DNA methylation dynamics.

Similarly to mature, differentiated cells, ASCs derived from aged horses displayed overexpression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and miRNA, and downregulation of the anti-inflammatory protein TGFβ1.

They concluded that increasing age — over 5 — rapidly reduces the major functions of ASCs, such as cell survival, homeostasis and proliferation activity. These markedly limit their regenerative capacity.

“The results provide valuable information that allows for a better understanding of the molecular events occurring in ASCs in the course of aging,” they said.

Their findings, they added, may help to identify new potential drug targets to restore their regenerative potential.

The study team comprised Alicka, Katarzyna Kornicka-Garbowska, Katarzyna Kucharczyk, Martyna Kępska and Krzysztof Marycz, all with the Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences; and Michael Rӧcken, with Justus-Liebig University in Germany.

Alicka, M., Kornicka-Garbowska, K., Kucharczyk, K. et al. Age-dependent impairment of adipose-derived stem cells isolated from horses. Stem Cell Res Ther 11, 4 (2020) doi:10.1186/s13287-019-1512-6

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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