Fruit fly protein could boost anti-aging treatment

fruit flies refuse to lay their eggs in lion poop
Credit: Marcus Stensmyr/Lund University

Impressive results in animals that have had their lifespans boosted by up to 40 percent have started making their way into humans.

Stem cells are particularly promising, because they can be coaxed into becoming any kind of cell before being transplanted to treat damaged tissue. These therapies often fail to work well in older tissue, though, limiting their future use in older patients who could need them most. This appears to be because these tissues have significantly higher levels of inflammation that prevent stem cells from properly integrating.

Now Portuguese researcher Joana Neves has won the 2019 Sartorius & Science Prize for Regenerating Medicine & Cell Therapy for her discovery of a way to sidestep this roadblock and significantly increase the success of stem cell treatments.

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She discovered that a poorly understood protein known as MANF (mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor) plays a crucial role in reducing inflammation in fruit flies.

That prompted her to see if introducing MANF would boost the effectiveness of stem cell treatments in older animals. She used the protein in combination with a procedure that uses stem cells to replace degenerating photoreceptors in the retina of older mice and found it greatly improved the restoration of vision.

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