Source: PR Newswire, Stem Cells Translational Medicine / Image: Mesenchymal Stem Cells

(DURHAM, N.C.) — A new study published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine demonstrates how mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) not only protect the heart from further damage after a cardiac incident but can actually slow down its aging process, too. These findings, in a rat model of the aging heart, could help propel stem cells to the forefront as a potential solution for more effective ways to treat heart conditions.

“This study is important as it suggests an alternative approach for treating heart failure in elderly patients,” said Yanjie Lu, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the pharmacology department at Harbin Medical University (HMU) in Harbin, China, and a world-renowned expert on myocardial infarction. He led the study, conducted by colleagues at HMU.

Aging is a complex and multifaceted process, resulting in damage to molecules, cells and tissue that in turn leads to declining organs. Mesenchymal stem cells, found in bone marrow, can generate bone, cartilage and fat cells that support the formation of blood and fibrous connective tissue. These stem cells also can be coaxed in the laboratory into becoming a variety of cell types, from cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) and neurons, to osteoblasts, smooth muscle cells and more.

Several studies have already shown that MSCs can reverse age-related degeneration of multiple organs, restore physical and cognitive functions of aged mice, and improve age-associated osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease and atherosclerosis. Dr. Lu’s team has been looking into the anti-aging benefits MSCs might have on the heart, too.

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