NYSCF Innovators Explore How To Keep Blood Stem Cells Young
Our blood stem cells are important—they replenish our blood supply and help us maintain proper circulation. But, as we age, so do they. The older they get, the less efficient they become, potentially leading to the development of blood disorders, neurodegenerative disease, cancer, or diabetes.
But what if we could develop strategies to keep them young? Create a “fountain of youth”, so to speak, for our blood stem cells? A new study from three NYSCF Innovators, NYSCF — Druckenmiller Fellow Maria Mayonavich, PhD, NYSCF — Druckenmiller Fellow Alumna Sandra Pinho, PhD, and NYSCF collaborator Dr. Paul Frenette of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, examines how a blood stem cell’s environment affects their aging process and how this environment can be manipulated to keep blood stem cells in a younger, healthier state.
It has long been thought that the bone marrow environment, where blood stem cells reside, influences how these stem cells age. However, scientists do not know a lot about the nature of this relationship. In the first part of the study, the researchers examined differences in the bone marrow of young and old mice. Notably, the team found that connections from the sympathetic nervous system to the bone marrow were depleted in the older mice.
The team next removed the sympathetic nervous system connections and blocked a certain sympathetic nervous system receptor (adrenoreceptor β3) in the bone marrow of young mice. In this case, the mice’s blood stem cells began to resemble those of an older mouse.
The sympathetic nervous system (part of the nervous system that helps regulate the body’s unconscious actions) plays a significant role in the blood stem cell environment—it helps regulate how cells mobilize and proliferate. When it is cut off from the bone marrow, it appears that blood stem cells age more quickly.
If this is true, then restoring sympathetic nervous system connections to bone marrow in older mice should help slow or reverse the aging of their blood stem cells. In the next part of the study, the researchers did exactly this by administering a drug that stimulates adrenoreceptor β3 to older mice. In an exciting result, the mice’s blood stem cells appeared rejuvenated.
Future research will focus on developing therapies that target the relationship between the sympathetic nervous system, bone marrow, and blood stem cells to help prevent disease.
For more information on this research, check out the paper in Nature Medicine.