Key protein protects blood stem cells from premature aging

November 12, 2020

Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) produce other blood and immune cells, and ramp up production when an infection strikes – scientists from the UK have now identified how the HSCs protect themselves during the arduous task. A protein, YTHDF2 for short, regulates genes that control inflammatory processes that follow infection, protecting the stem cells from damage and premature aging.

Upon inducing an infection, scientists from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and Queen Mary University, England noticed that young mice suffered chronic inflammation of their HSCs, which altered the production of different blood cell types. These mice were engineered to be deficient in YTHDF2; the damage suffered caused their blood to resemble that of much older mice.

Like humans, mouse HSCs naturally lose their potency and ability to manufacture new blood cells during the aging process, leaving older adults much more vulnerable to infection. Blood transfusions from young animals to older ones could therefore improve the health of the recipient, and even slow the progression of certain inflammatory diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

“Our study uncovers a key significance of YTHDF2 in protecting blood stem cells [and] regulating inflammatory pathways in blood and also other tissue stem cells,” said Professor Dónal O’Carroll, University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences. Future work could investigate whether manipulating levels of YTHDF2 may be a potential anti-aging treatment.

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