Some of you may know a movie called "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". It is about a man who ages in reverse. But can people in reality reverse their aging process? Unbelievable as it may sound, yet it can happen in brain stem cells in mice.
Mysterious brain stem cells
A multi-disciplinary research team, based at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (University of Cambridge), studied young and old rat brains and found that a type of brain stem cell would have lower function as the brain became stiff and aged.
These cells are called oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs), which are important for maintaining normal brain function, and for the regeneration of myelin—the fatty substance that surrounds our nerves. Myelin can be affected during the aging process and cause multiple sclerosis (MS), an often-disabling disease of the central nervous system.
Aged brain stem cells can become young again
As brain ages, the brain becomes stiffer and harder. But when the researchers transplanted older OPCs from aged rats into the soft brains of younger rats, the older brain cells were rejuvenated remarkably, and began to behave like the younger, more vigorous cells.
To study this further, the researchers developed new materials in the lab with varying degrees of stiffness. They also investigated Piezo1—a protein found on the cell surface, which informs the cell whether the surrounding environment is soft or stiff.
It turned out that when rat brain stem cells were on the stiff material, the cells became dysfunctional and lost their ability to regenerate, and in fact began to function like aged cells. What was especially interesting was that when the old brain cells were on the soft material, they began to function like young cells—in other words, they were rejuvenated.
The remarkable meaning for humans
When we age, our muscles and joints may become stiff, making everyday movements more and more difficult. This study shows that it is also true in our brains. In addition, it demonstrates new ways to reverse older stem cells to a younger and healthier state.
These above results have far reaching implications for how we understand the aging process, and how we might develop treatments for age-related brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS).
What is multiple sclerosis (MS) in detail?
MS is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord when the immune system attacks the protective myelin in the aging process. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.
To know the early signs and symptoms of MC, you can check: What Are Early Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?
For now, there is no cure for MC. People who have mild symptoms sometimes do not need treatment. And there are treatment options that can help accelerate the recovery, slow the progression of the disease and manage symptoms. Treatments may include:
—Short courses of steroid medicine to speed up recovery
—Specific treatment plan for specific symptoms
—Disease-modifying therapies to reduce the number of relapses