Sadia Mohsin, a postdoctoral research scholar at San Diego State University's Heart Institute, said the finding could one day lead to new treatments for heart failure patients.
Modified human stem cells helped the signaling and structure of the heart cells, which were biopsied from elderly patients, Mohsin explained.
The researchers modified the stem cells in the laboratory with PIM-1 -- a protein that promotes cell survival and growth, Mohsin said.
Cells were rejuvenated when the modified stem cells enhanced activity of the enzyme telomerase, which elongates telomere length. Telomeres are "caps" on the ends of chromosomes that facilitate cell
replication. Aging and disease results when telomeres break off.
"There is no doubt that stem cells can be used to counter the aging process of cardiac cells caused by telomere degradation," Mohsin said in a statement.
The technique increased telomere length and activity, and increased cardiac stem cell proliferation, all vital steps in combating heart failure, Mohsin told the American Heart Association's Basic Cardiovascular Sciences scientific sessions.
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