Last week, the Institute on Aging hosted its annual Vincent J. Cristofalo Lectureship at the University of Pennsylvania. This year’s topic, presented by keynote speaker Amy Wagers, PhD, Forst Family Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University, was “Local and systemic regulators of tissue aging.”
Dr. Wagers’ lab focuses on tissues and how they maintain themselves and regenerate throughout life as well demonstrating the changes in muscle function caused by age, as muscle tissue declines and is replaced with fat and fibrous tissue instead. Another research area they have explored is looking at how wiring of pathways change with age and the factors that regulate satellite cell aging.
With that said, one major goal of Dr. Wagers’ lab is to uncover whether or not there are regulators of muscle tissue function found in the blood. In collaboration with an outside contractor, they were able to discover growth factors present in the bloodstream of old and young mice leading to the identification of proteins GDF8 and GDF11 as essential in the development of, or lack of, muscle tissue.
After initially testing on cows, Dr. Wagers and her colleagues moved to a mouse model. They injected raised levels of GDF11 in old mice to equal the amount of tissue that they would have had as young mice and observed a reduction in heart size, remodeling of skeletal fibers, improved muscle repair activity and genomic activity, increased neural stem cells and improvement in blood flow and vasculature as well as improved grip strength and exercise endurance ability. These results showed that the loss of the protein GDF11 could not only lead to declining function in muscle tissue, but in many other tissues of the body as well.
With this in mind, we can determine that aging clearly has an effect on muscle, both local and systemic. Fully understanding its regenerative potential may lead to therapeutic targets for future medications and therapies aiming to stop or slow the process of tissue aging.
For more information on Amy Wagers, PhD and her lab, visit: Wagers Laboratory
For more information on the Cristofalo Annual Lectureship, visit: Cristofalo Lectureship