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Bone drug could slow ageing of stem cells

Friday, Dec 18, 2015,14:05 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

London | A drug currently used to treat patients with osteoporosis can extend the lifespan of stem cells by protecting them from DNA damage, scientists including those of Indian-origin have found.

DNA damage is one of the most important mechanisms of ageing where stem cells lose their ability to maintain and repair the tissues in which they live and keep it working correctly.

Scientists from University of Sheffield in UK, including Juhi Misra, Sindhu T Mohanty and Sanjeev Madan, found that the drug zoledronate protects the mesenchymal stem cells from DNA damage enhancing their survival and maintaining their function.

The drug enhances the repair of the damage in DNA occurring with age in stem cells in the bone. It is also likely to work in other stem cells too, said Ilaria Bellantuono, professor at the university’s Department of Metabolism.

This drug has been shown to delay mortality in patients affected by osteoporosis but until now we didn’t know why. These findings provide an explanation as to why it may help people to live longer, Bellantuono said.

Now we want to understand whether the drug can be used to delay or revert the ageing in stem cells in older people and improve the maintenance of tissues such as the heart, the muscle and immune cells, keeping them healthier for longer, she said.

We want to understand whether it improves the ability of stem cells to repair those tissues after injury, such as when older patients with cancer undergo radiotherapy, she said.

About 50 per cent of over 75 year-olds have three or more diseases at the same time such as cardiovascular disease, infections, muscle weakness and osteoporosis, researchers said.

In the future it is hoped this drug could be used to treat, prevent or delay the onset of such diseases rather than using a mixture of drugs, they said.

We are hopeful that this research will pave the way for a better cure for cancer patients and keeping older people healthier for longer by reducing the risk of developing multiple age-related diseases, Bellantuono said.

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