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Novel research study discovers protein that can reverse muscle aging

[June 13, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]

Research team has shown that a protein can reverse aging in skeletal muscle cells. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Research spearheaded by the University at Buffalo has demonstrated that a protein, named after an eternal youth land in Irish mythology, can successfully reverse aging in skeletal muscle cells.

The study, featured in Science Advances, focuses on the protein known as NANOG, a term borrowed from Tír na nÓg, a legendary location in Irish mythology celebrated for its perpetual youth, beauty, and wellness.


Through a range of experimental procedures, scientists amplified the expression of NANOG in myoblasts, the embryonic cells that eventually form muscle tissue.

The research could help lead to treatments for atherosclerosis, osteoporosis and other age-related disorders (Credit: University of Buffalo)

These myoblasts were in a state of senescence, implying they had lost their capacity for cell division and growth.


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The increased expression improved several key features linked with age-related cell degradation, including self-digestion, energy balance, genetic stability, nuclear structure, and mitochondrial performance.

This illustration shows a senescent muscle cell (left), including the numerous factors that led to its declining ability to divide and grow. It also shows the same type of cell after the overexpression of NANOG, which reversed many of the factors. (CREDIT: University at Buffalo)


Significantly, NANOG elevated the count of muscle stem cells in the muscle tissue of mice showing premature aging. This showcased the potential for reversing cellular aging within the body, eliminating the necessity to revert cells to an embryonic pluripotent state.

Representative picture of a heterozygous LAKI progeria mouse (LmnaG609G/+) and his WT sibling (Lmna+/+) both at the age of 10 months. (CREDIT: Science Advances Research Article)

This process is commonly applied in stem cell therapy but carries the potential danger of tumor formation.


“Our work focuses on understanding the mechanisms of NANOG’s actions in hopes of discovering druggable targets in signaling or metabolic networks that mimic the anti-aging effects of NANOG.", explains the paper's lead author, Stelios T. Andreadis, PhD.

Fluorescent confocal image of NANOG Polyclonal Antibody. (CREDIT: Abcepta)

He holds the title of SUNY Distinguished Professor within the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


"In the end, the research might pave the way for innovative treatments or therapies that could reverse cellular aging, benefiting countless individuals dealing with age-related diseases," said Andreadis.

What is cellular senescence?

Senescent cells are unique in that they eventually stop multiplying but don’t die off when they should. They instead remain and continue to release chemicals that can trigger inflammation. Like the one moldy piece of fruit that corrupts the entire bowl, a relatively small number of senescent cells can persist and spread inflammation that can damage neighboring cells.


However, not all senescent cells are bad. The molecules and compounds expressed by senescent cells (known as the senescent secretome) play important roles across the lifespan, including in embryonic development, childbirth, and wound healing.

How cellular senescence affects the body

The number of senescent cells in a person’s body increases with age. As the aging immune system becomes less efficient, senescent cells accumulate and taint healthy cells. This can affect a person’s ability to withstand stress or illness; recuperate from injuries; and learn new things, since senescent cells in the brain can degrade cognitive functions.

As a result, cellular senescence has been connected to a multitude of age-related conditions, including cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and osteoarthritis. It has also been linked to declines in eyesight, mobility, and thinking ability.


Investigations are underway to see if senescent skin cells may contribute to sagging and wrinkling, and if senescent cells might also be connected to the cytokine storm of inflammation that makes COVID-19 so deadly for older adults.

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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