As we age, our bodies face many challenges, including declining immune system function and increased vulnerability to various health problems. A study conducted within the UNIL-CHUV Department of Oncology has recently shed light on these challenges. It unveils a potential solution that could have far-reaching implications for aging individuals.
The aging process is often accompanied by a decline in the proper functioning of the hematopoietic system, involved in the creation of new blood cells, and the immune system, in charge of combating aggression. As the years go by, our elders become more vulnerable to infections, blood disorders and even the development of tumors.
The study, led by Nicola Vannini , a researcher at the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and member of the Ludwig Institute’s Lausanne branch, focused on a key player in the blood system: hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). These cells are responsible for generating various types of blood cells, playing a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system. With age, HSCs experience a decline in their ability to regenerate blood and show a preference for a specific type of cell lineage, thus contributing to immune system dysfunction.
However, the researchers discovered a remarkable solution. By introducing a compound called Urolithin-A, which targets mitochondria - the energy powerhouses of cells - they were able to reverse the decline in HSC function. Mitochondrial abnormalities had been identified as a contributing factor to HSC aging. Urolithin-A acted as a mitochondrial modulator, effectively restoring mitochondrial function in HSCs.
The most astonishing finding, published in the journal Nature Aging, was that this intervention not only rejuvenated the blood reconstitution capacity of aged HSCs, but also improved immune system function in aged mice. When Urolithin-A was incorporated as a dietary supplement, it not only revitalized the lymphoid compartments of the immune system, but also improved the overall performance of HSCs. This resulted in a better immune response against viral infections, demonstrating Urolithin-A’s potential to combat age-related immune system decline.
In short, this groundbreaking advance indicates that by stimulating mitochondrial recycling with Urolithin-A, it is possible to reverse the aging process in the hematopoietic and immune systems. These findings are of considerable importance for the development of interventions to treat age-related health problems in the elderly.