According to the recent research conducted at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the stem cells in the brain’s hypothalamus are responsible for the pace of aging taking place in the human body. Their finding has the potential of leading to new strategies in warding off age-related diseases, at the same time expanding lifespan.
The hypothalamus was, until recently, known to regulate important mechanisms that occur within the body, to include those related to growth, development, reproduction and metabolism.
With the occasion of a breakthrough study, the Einstein researchers made the surprising finding that the hypothalamus also regulates the process of aging in the body. Now, the researchers were able to pinpoint the cells that control aging, located in the hypothalamus. These are a tiny population of adult neural stem cells, known to be responsible for the formation of new neurons.
The researchers wanted to find if this progressive loss of stem cells was actually causing aging and was not just associated with it. So they proceeded to selectively disrupt the hypothalamic stem cells in the middle aged mice. As a result, the disruption eventually accelerated aging, causing the animals to die earlier.
It was discovered that the hypothalamic stem cells appear to exert their anti-aging effects by a process of release of the molecules, which are also known as microRNAs. These cells are not involved in the process of protein synthesis, instead playing a key role in regulating gene expression. The microRNAs are packaged into these tiny particles called exosomes, released by the hypothalamic stem cells into the cerebrospinal fluid of mice.
MiRNA exosomes were extracted from the hypothalamic stem cells and injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of two groups of mice. Eventually, the middle-aged mice whose hypothalamic stem cells had been destroyed and the normal middle-aged mice were separated into two groups. This treatment significantly slowed the process of aging in both groups of animals, as measured by tissue analysis, along with behavioral testing that involved assessing changes in the muscle endurance of the animals.
The discovery has the potential to lead the scientists to the path of identifying the particular populations of microRNAs, along with other factors secreted by these stem cells which are responsible for the anti-aging effects, ultimately constituting a first step toward slowing the aging processes and finding appropriate treatments for age-related diseases.