Biologists Find a Way to Boost Intestinal Stem Cells
Researchers at MIT and the University of Tokyo released a study that showed intestinal aging damage reversal by treating intestinal stem cells with a boosting compound.
“One of the issues with aging is organ dysfunction, accompanied by a decline in the activity of the stem cells that nurture and replenish that organ, so this is a potentially very useful intervention point to either slow or reverse aging,” says Leonard Guarente, the Novartis Professor of Biology at MIT.
Guarente’s lab has long studied the link between aging and sirtuins, a class of proteins found in nearly all animals. Sirtuins, which have been shown to protect against the effects of aging, can also be stimulated by calorie restriction.
In their new study, they investigated whether aging contributes to a decline in stem cell populations, and whether that decline could be reversed.
The researchers examined a nicotinamide riboside (NR) compound could reverse the damage. This compound is a precursor to NAD, a coenzyme that activates the sirtuin SIRT1. They found that after six weeks of drinking water spiked with NR, the older mice had normal levels of intestinal stem cells, and these cells were able to generate organoids as well as stem cells from younger mice could.
They also found that NR protected the mice from the inflammation and tissue damage usually produced by this compound in older animals.
“That has real implications for health because just having more stem cells is all well and good, but it might not equate to anything in the real world,” Guarente says. “Knowing that the guts are actually more stress-resistant if they’re NR- supplemented is pretty interesting.”
The findings suggest that NAD might have a protective effect against diseases of the gut, such as colitis.
“What we would hypothesize is that the NAD replenishment in old mice is driving this pathway of growth that’s working through SIRT1 and TOR to reverse the decline that has occurred with aging,”