Scientists believe we know much about various brain regions, but we still have a long way to go. Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai NYC have recently discovered evidence about an ancient and well-studied region of the brain known as the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus regulates body temperature, internal conditions, and other physiological needs, but may also regulate aging and mental decline. A study of this region of the brain from 4 years ago found that reducing inflammation in the hypothalamus could delay physical deterioration and boost life span in animal models.
Today, the scientists report that adding stem cells to the hypothalamus can increase lifespan by more than 10%.
‘Stunning' Stem Cell Connection
In this new study, published in Nature, scientists focused on the stem cells within the hypothalamus. In one section of mice, researchers removed over 70% of the stem cells within the hypothalamus through an antiviral drug. This shortened their lifespan by around 8%.
Not only did the mice die sooner, but their physical abilities, such as coordination, memory, and endurance, also suffered. They were less curious, inquisitive, and less likely to learn than their counterparts who had many stem cells remaining. Next, the scientists added stem cells to the hypothalamus region of mice and saw longevity increase more than 10%.
“It's a pretty stunning paper,” says Charles Mobbs, the endocrinologist at the Icahn School of Medicine.
As researchers piece the components of this study together, new stem cell therapies may soon be in the works.
MicroRNA and Stem Cell Therapy
While a 10% boost in longevity and physical health is encouraging, scientists dug deeper to find the root cause. The paper suggests microRNA are at work, which help to reduce the breakdown of stem cells as much as the added stem cells themselves. This provides two potential plans of action for human applications:
- Replacing stem cells in the hypothalamus
- Replicating the effects of microRNA on the hypothalamus
Stem cells are a political topic in the United States ever since the George W. Bush era. The federal government limits the release of federal funding for embryonic stem cells, but private funding is allowed. Canada, Mexico, and South Korea have all developed unique therapies with more flexibility than the U.S.A.
Despite the political roadblocks to stem cell therapies, there are some companies charging a pretty penny for certain procedures. One called “Regenexx” has over a dozen centers in the United States and while they focus mostly on the hips, elbows, and other joints, perhaps in time we will see a similar industry for treating the brain.