Cardiac stem cells derived from young hearts helped reverse the signs of aging when directly injected into the old hearts of elderly rats, a study published Monday in the European Heart Journal demonstrated.
The old rats appeared newly invigorated after receiving their injections. As hoped, the cardiac stem cells improved heart function yet also provided additional benefits. The rats’ fur, shaved for surgery, grew back more quickly than expected, and their chromosomal telomeres, which commonly shrink with age, lengthened.
“It’s extremely exciting,” said Dr. Eduardo Marbán, primary investigator on the research and director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. Witnessing “the systemic rejuvenating effects,” he said, “it’s kind of like an unexpected fountain of youth.”
The working hypothesis is that the cells secrete exosomes, tiny vesicles that “contain a lot of nucleic acids, things like RNA, that can change patterns of the way the tissue responds to injury and the way genes are expressed in the tissue,” Marbán said.
It is the exosomes that act on the heart and make it better as well as mediating long-distance effects on exercise capacity and hair regrowth, he explained.
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