Wnt, aging, and the fountain of youth

You're not getting any older--just your blood is. LOL

The story is actually a lot more complicated than that but there's two articles in the August 10 issue of Science that indicate that the environment (ie blood) our cells are in is a lot more important vis a vis aging than the cells themselves. Further, that it's a protein referred to as wnt that is the big player in this.

Wnt has long been known to be a very important regulatory protein. The name is derived from "wingless" and "integrative" and dates back to early genetic work on fruit flies on the wingless side and vertebrate studies on the integrative.

As you can see to the left, the wnt pathway is complex. My research has dipped into the APC area quite a few times and one of the genes I'm working on right now is for a frizzled protein (the FRZ in the diagram) but I've never worked with wnt directly.

Back to the Science article. Thomas Rando, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford, and the lead author of the paper in question referred to his findings in this manner: “That was a total surprise,” said Rando, “We had no idea that the Wnt signaling pathway would have a negative effect on stem cell function.”

You see, his research group had noticed in the past that old muscle stem cells, if placed in a youthful environment, had just as great a capacity for repairing acutely damaged tissue as do young cells. The new discovery is that wnt, a protein traditionally thought to help promote maintenance and proliferation of stem cells in many tissues, appears to block proper intracellular communication in the case of aging. This leads to poor muscle repair--and presumably other tissues as well.

According to a press release from Stanford University regarding this research:

Their study found that, as we age, the lines of communication to the stem cells of our muscles deteriorate and, without the full instructions, it takes longer for injured muscles to heal. Even then, the repairs aren’t as good. But now that the researchers have uncovered the conduit that conveys the work orders to muscle stem cells, that knowledge could open the door to new therapies for injuries in a host of different tissues.

To test this, the Rando group exposed young muscle stem cells to an "aged environment" and found that they were influenced negatively by the aged environment, repairing damaged muscle tissue just as slowly and poorly as old stem cells in the same surroundings. This confirmed their earlier research showing that the ability of muscle stem cells to regenerate tissue depends on the age of the cells’ environment (including the age of the blood supplying the tissue), not the age of the stem cell.

What does this mean for us? Well, if you block the wnt pathway you could very well promote tissue healing. The truism that you heal slower when you're older would no longer hold true. More interesting however is that many of the obvious signs of aging are due to imperfect cellular maintenance--what if selective wnt pathway suppression could change that? The wnt pathway is crucial so this is something that you're want to only block on a selective basis but it's a very interesting area of research. Especially since I'm seeing serious signs of aging on my bod these days!

Want to know more about wnt? Here's a page dedicated to wnt! Enjoy...


tiff said…
I need me some wnt blocker, dude. STAT.
kenju said…
I need a good dose of it tonight! This was my first day back at work in 6 weeks, and I stood for 5 hours straight. More tomorrow and Sat. Where do I get some?
SassyAssy said…
Well I will be praying to the WNT blocker gods for that to come to pass...
vicki said…
This is pretty interesting stuff. I'll need to re-read it a few more times...I often wish that I understood more about the life inside us. I have a young friend who recently received a cord blood transplant and she now, sadly, has GVHD. It's been a difficult and complex process with a steep learning curve about the ways the body works for and against itself. Thanks for the info- and let me know when they get it bottled.

Popular posts from this blog

ankles: the sequel

is my potato breathing?

Bread is Dangerous