12 July 2019

Gerontocracy in the gut

A remedy against aging and the effects of chemotherapy has been found


Scientists at the University of Helsinki (Finland) have discovered a mechanism that impairs the regenerative abilities of the intestine during aging. Blocking this mechanism allows to improve the state of the digestive system and reduce the risk of complications after chemotherapy. This is reported in the press release Repair of aged tissue can be enhanced by inhibiting signals from neighboring cells.

Article by Pentinmikko et al. Notum produced by Paneth cells attenuates regeneration of aged intestinal epithelium published in the journal Nature – VM.

During the study, experts grew organoids – three-dimensional tissue cultures that are a model of the intestine. It turned out that stem cells eventually cease to perform the function of updating intestinal tissues, while Paneta cells play a key role in this pathological process. The latter perform a protective, antibacterial function, but with age they begin to secrete signaling molecules that prevent regeneration.


Intestinal organoids for studying the interaction between stem cells and neighboring Paneta cells (highlighted in red).

Scientists have shown that an inhibitor molecule called Notum affects the Wnt signaling pathway, which regulates embryogenesis, cell differentiation and the development of malignant tumors. Suppression of Notum with the help of drugs rejuvenated stem cells and contributed to the restoration of intestinal functions in laboratory animals that were given chemotherapeutic drugs with severe side effects.

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