Shapeshifting Stem Cells: A Key to Reversing Aging-related Decline in Immunity

Researchers have uncovered a molecule that has the potential to reverse the age-related decline in immune function. Published in Nature Aging, this groundbreaking research brings us closer to extending both lifespan and overall health.

The immune system weakens as we age, leaving us more susceptible to infections, diseases, and tumors. The key to a well-functioning immune system lies in our hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which are responsible for producing all types of blood cells. Stem cells have the ability to differentiate into various cell types, making them essential for immune cell production.

However, as we age, hematopoietic stem cells lose their ability to produce the necessary immune cells and become biased towards producing one line of blood cells over others. Additionally, aging stem cells accumulate an abnormal amount of mitochondria, which impairs their metabolic functions. These factors limit immune cell production and weaken the body’s defense against toxins and pathogens.

To address this decline, researchers focused on restoring mitochondrial health. They found that urolithin A, a natural compound known to improve metabolic fitness, could restore mitochondrial function and improve blood-cell production. In a series of experiments, hematopoietic stem cells were exposed to urolithin A and then transplanted into mice exposed to lethal levels of irradiation. These mice successfully recovered, as urolithin A restored the ability of the old stem cells to produce blood cells.

In a separate experiment, old mice were fed a diet enriched with urolithin A, leading to improved hematopoietic stem-cell performance and enhanced production of immune cells. Notably, these rejuvenated stem cells resulted in an improved immune response, making the mice more effective at fighting viral infections.

This research confirms that urolithin A rejuvenates hematopoietic stem cells and preserves their ability to produce all types of blood cells. As a result, immune function is improved, and resilience in the face of infections is enhanced. While it may take time for these findings to translate into consumer-ready therapies, incorporating urolithin A-rich foods such as raspberries, walnuts, almonds, strawberries, and pomegranates into the diet may have potential health benefits.

– Nature Aging: (source article)
– Cell: Urolithin A Rejuvenates Hematopoietic Stem Cells to Improve Muscle Function in Aged Mice
– ScienceDirect: Hematopoietic Stem Cell Heterogeneity: Subtypes, Functional Properties, and Therapeutic Implications