The gene, called hypoxia inducible factor 1, helps maintain constant levels of telomerase, an enzyme critical in slowing deterioration in the cells. When scientists reduced hypoxia inducible factor 1 in stem cells of mice, telomerase levels were reduced and rates of cell aging increased.
“These findings have important implications for the development of therapies to treat age-related diseases associated with exhaustion of stem cells, as well as types of cancer that are dependent on cancer stem cells to grow,” says Richard Allsopp, assistant professor at the school’s Institute for Biogenesis Research. Stem cells differentiate into many cell types during growth and replenish other cells in some tissues.
The discovery appeared in July 2010 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read the abstract.
Allsopp’s work was supported in part by the Tilker Medical Research Foundation, which seeks solutions to multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions, as well as spinal cord injuries and autoimmune diseases.