Unlocking the mysteries of aging for regenerative medicines

24 August 2023

A solution for getting old has, so far, eluded science. 

But certain mysteries surrounding the aging process are starting to unravel, thanks to promising work by the AIBN’s Associate Professor Jessica Mar and Professor Ernst Wolvetang.

Associate Professor Jess Mar is looking at how certain stem cells progress to a state of senescence.

In GeroScience journal – the official journal of the American Ageing Association - the pair have used cutting-edge technology to learn more about aging at a cellular level, gaining insights they hope will aid the quest for new regenerative medicines and healthy aging treatments.

“Fundamentally, what we're trying to understand is how cells age,” Jess says.

“At the cellular level, the most relevant property of aging is senescence. That's when the cells that normally would die, don't actually die.

“It’s that sort of zombie state where they don't develop into other things that they need to be or get cleared out of the body.

Professor Ernst Wolvetang.

“And it’s usually the underling aspect of many physical symptoms or properties that we more commonly associate with aging.

"Things like inflammation and muscle fragility.”

Partnering with Ernst’s team, Jess says their paper takes an extremely close look (using single cell profiling and single-cell RNA sequencing) at how certain stem cells progress to a state of senescence, and discovered that it is not as straightforward as once thought.

Collectively, the data uncovered by the researchers reconciles previous observations that identified different senescence programs within an individual cell type, and should enable the design of novel senotherapeutic regimes that can overcome in vitro MSC expansion constraints or that can perhaps slow organismal ageing.

What also made this study novel was its interdisciplinary approach to combing cutting-edge cell and molecular biology techniques from Ernst’s group with the statistical data science led by Jess’ team to make these discoveries about senescence.

The paper was completed with the assistance of AIBN colleagues Dr Atefeh Taherian Fard, Dr Hannah Leeson, Dr Julio Aguado Perez, Dr Giovanni PietrograndeDominique Power, Cecilia Gomez-Inclan, Huiwen Zheng, Farhad Soheilmoghaddam, Nick Glass, Malindrie Dharmaratne, Ebony WatsonJennifer LuSally Martin, Professor Justin Cooper-White, and Christopher Nelson and Hilda Pickett from the Children's Medical Research Institute at the University of Sydney.

You can read the Geroscience paper in full here