Ageing, stem cells and a propensity to cancer

With the support of Russia's Almazov Medical Research Centre, the EU-funded SyStemAge project studied the molecular mechanisms of ageing in adult stem cells, the results of which indicate that the intervention of metabolic pathways could correct age-related alterations and diseases.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


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Published: 7 February 2019  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Health & life sciencesHealth & ageing  |  Molecular biology
International cooperation
Research policySeventh Framework Programme
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Germany  |  Japan  |  Russia  |  Singapore  |  Spain  |  United Kingdom
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Ageing, stem cells and a propensity to cancer

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© freshidea #87447275, 2019 source:stock.adobe.com

Stem cells are the ultimate mother cells of the human body. Not only do they have the capacity to self-renew, they can develop into specific cell types as the body requires. But as the human body ages, the regenerative capacity of our stem cells diminishes. For example, as the capacity of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) to regenerate other blood cells diminishes, so does our immune system, thus giving rise to such disorders as cancer.

To better understand – and treat – such age-related disorders as cancer, researchers with the EU-funded SyStemAge project studied HSC ageing within the red bone marrow microenvironment. “Because vulnerability to cancer is associated with a decline in the immune system, a loss in the regenerative function of our stem cells can be interpreted as an early warning sign for the propensity to contract cancer,” explains Adndrey Zaritskey, a leading researcher at Russia’s Almazov Medical Research Centre, one of the SyStemAge project’s partners. “Using HSC and their microenvironment as a model, our goal was to develop a systems-level understanding of the molecular mechanisms of ageing in adult stem cells, the consequences of this ageing and a means to correct age-related alterations and diseases.”

Expertise in B-CLL

Being a centre of excellence in B-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL), a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow, the Haematology Institute at Almazov Medical Research Centre was well-positioned to provide the project with important insights from its B-CLL patients.

“With scientific research being a key part of our medical centre, we were able to study HSCs across a variety of patients and age groups,” explains Zaritskey. “Furthermore, our state-of-the-art facilities and biobank have enabled us to readily isolate, sort and store biological material before sending it to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, or EMBL, for further validation.”

Benefits all around

Thanks in part to the Almazov Medical Research Centre’s expertise in the clinical and fundamental aspects of B-CLL, the SYSTEMAGE project was able to translate knowledge about HSC ageing into potential new treatments. For example, researchers standardised and harmonised methods for isolating HSC, mesenchymal stroma cells (MSC) and other constituent cells of the bone marrow niche from healthy human subjects, as well as from patients with B-CLL. “In close collaboration, we compared the differences in the mechanisms of physiological ageing versus those with B-CLL,” adds Zaritskey.

The Almazov Medical Research Centre also benefited from its collaboration on the project. “The results of the project laid the foundation for the ongoing clinical research that we are conducting here at the Centre,” says Zaritskey. “It also opened the door to a continuing collaboration with Kyoto University.”

But most importantly, it is the general public that will benefit from the project’s work. “The main basis of our health is the state of our immune system, which is maintained by HSC,” adds Zaritskey. “What we learned is that although ageing may have many facets, keeping our blood cells healthy benefits all our body’s systems – leading to a happier, healthier and longer life.”

Project details

  • Project acronym: SyStemAge
  • Participants: Germany (Coordinator), Spain, Japan, Russia, Singapore, UK
  • Project N°: 306240
  • Total costs: €7 869 114
  • EU contribution: € 5 989 925
  • Duration: January 2013 to December 2017

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