Researchers have identified an important mediator of youthfulness in mouse muscle, which explains the ‘rejuvenating’ blood transfusions effect between young and old mice. The discovery could also lead to new therapies for age-related muscle loss.
Published in Nature Aging, the study showed that circulating shuttles called extracellular vesicles, or EVs, deliver genetic instructions for the longevity protein known as Klotho to muscle cells. Reduced muscle function and repair in old mice may be driven by aged EVs, which carry fewer instructions than those in young animals.
The findings help further as to understanding why muscle regeneration capacity diminishes with age.
“We’re really excited about this research for a couple of reasons,” said senior author Dr Fabrisia Ambrosio. “In one way, it helps us understand the basic biology of how muscle regeneration works and how it fails to work as we age. Then, taking that information to the next step, we can think about using extracellular vesicles as therapeutics to counteract these age-related defects.”
Decades of research have shown that when old mice are given blood from young mice, youthful features are restored to many cells and tissues. But until now, it was unclear which components of young blood confer these rejuvenating effects.
“Amrita Sahu releaseWe wondered if extracellular vesicles might contribute to muscle regeneration because these couriers travel between cells via the blood and other bodily fluids,” said lead author Dr Amrita Sahu. “Like a message in a bottle, EVs deliver information to target cells.”
Ambrosio and her team collected serum from young mice and injected it into aged mice with injured muscle. Mice that received young serum showed enhanced muscle regeneration and functional recovery compared to those that received a placebo treatment, but the serum’s restorative properties were lost when EVs were removed, indicating that it is these vesicles which deliver the beneficial effects of young blood.
The researchers then found that EVs deliver genetic instructions, or mRNA, encoding the anti-ageing protein Klotho to muscle progenitor cells, important stem cells for muscle regeneration. EVs collected from old mice carried fewer copies of Klotho instructions than those from young mice, causing muscle progenitor cells to produce less of this protein.
With advancing age, muscle doesn’t recover from damage as well because scar tissue is laid down. In earlier work, Ambrosio and her team showed that Klotho is an important regulator of regenerative capacity in muscle progenitor cells and that this protein declines with age.
The new study shows for the first time that age-related shifts in EV cargo contribute to depleted Klotho in aged stem cells, suggesting that EVs could be developed into novel therapies for healing damaged muscle tissue.
“EVs may be beneficial for boosting regenerative capacity of muscle in older individuals and improving functional recovery after an injury,” said Ambrosio. “One of the ideas we’re really excited about is engineering EVs with specific cargoes, so that we can dictate the responses of target cells.”
Beyond muscles, EVs also could help reverse other effects of ageing. Previous work has demonstrated that young blood can boost cognitive performance of aged mice.
Source: University of Pittsburgh