Age of Donors of iPSCs Does Not Appear to Influence Stem Cell Functionality

Age of Donors of iPSCs Does Not Appear to Influence Stem Cell Functionality

Life expectancy is rising, but so too are age-related degenerative diseases which can have a major effect on the quality of life. While organ replacement could offer a solution in patients with kidney or heart disease, there is a shortage of donors and organs. The solution could well be cell-based treatments, although there are ethical issues associated with the use of embryonic stem cells (ESCs), which are believed to be the only reliable source of stem cells for use in regenerative medicine. There is also a shortage of ESCs and a significant risk of rejection if tissue generated from ESCs is transplanted.

The alternative is the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These solve the ethical issues surrounding the use of ESCs and since they can be harvested from the patient who requires stem-cell treatments, they also solve the problem of rejection.

iPSCs have already been used to successfully treat some patients; however, there are concerns about using iPSCs that have been derived from cells harvested from older adults. AS the body ages, DNA damage accumulates, and the DNA damage would likely be passed on to cells differentiated from iPSCs. Consequently, iPSCs harvested from older patients may not be an ideal choice for use in regenerative medicine.

Relatively little research has been conducted on whether the age of the donor has a significant impact on the viability of iPSCs, and considering it is elderly patients who are most likely to benefit from iPSC treatments, it is a question that needs to be answered.

Dr. Nicolle Kränkel and her team at the medical university Charité in Germany set out to evaluate the research already conducted on ePSCs to determine how much of a factor the age of donors of iPSCs really is, and whether age has any effect on the reprogramming process and the functionality of iPSCs.

While the research confirmed that the age of the donor of iPSCs did have an impact on the process of reprogramming cells into iPSCs – which was less efficient with cells harvested from older patients – once iPSCs had been generated they appeared to be given a new lease of life, with the signs of aging reversed.

There appeared to be little difference in the efficiency of differentiating iPSCs into mature body cells between iPSCs generated from younger and older patients. “This means that stem cells from an elderly patient can be developed into other cells and returned to the patient for treatment,” said Dr. Kränkel.

While the research could mean that iSPCs could be harvested from elderly patients for use in regenerative medicine, there are still many questions that need to be answered, one of the most important being whether accumulated DNA damage is repaired when cells are transformed into iPSCs and whether transplanted tissues generated from iPSCs are more likely to form tumors.

The study – Age Is Relative—Impact of Donor Age on Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cell Functionality – was recently published in the journal frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine.

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