Stem cells overcome damage in other cells by exporting mitochondria

January 16, 2014

A research team has identified a protein that increases the transfer of mitochondria from mesenchymal stem cells to lung cells. In work published in The EMBO Journal, the researchers reveal that the delivery of mitochondria to human lung cells can rejuvenate damaged cells. The migration of mitochondria from stem cells to epithelial cells also helps to repair tissue damage and inflammation linked to asthma-like symptoms in mice.

"Our results show that the movement of from to recipient cells is regulated by the protein Miro1 and is part of a well-directed process," remarked Anurag Agrawal, Professor at the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in Delhi, India, and one of the lead authors of the study. "The introduction of mitochondria into damaged cells has beneficial effects on the health of cells and, in the long term, we believe that mesenchymal stem cells could even be engineered to create more effective therapies for lung disease in humans."

Earlier work revealed that mitochondria can be transferred between cells through tunneling nanotubes, thread-like structures formed from the plasma membranes of cells that bridge between different types of cells. Stem cells can also use tunneling nanotubes to transfer mitochondria to neighboring cells and the number of these nanotubes increases under conditions of stress.

In the study, the protein Miro1 was shown to regulate the transfer of mitochondria from to . Stem cells that were engineered to have higher amounts of Miro1 were able to transfer mitochondria more efficiently and were therapeutically more effective when tested in mouse models of airway injury and asthma, compared to untreated cells.

"We hope to determine how this pathway might translate into better stem cell therapies for human disease," added Agrawal.

Explore further: A link between mitochondria and tumor formation in stem cells

More information: "Miro1 regulates intercellular mitochondrial transport and enhances mesenchymal stem cell rescue efficacy." Tanveer Ahmad, Shravani Mukherjee, Bijay Pattnaik, Manish Kumar, Suchita Singh, Manish Kumar, Rakhshinda Rehman, Brijendra K Tiwari, Kumar Abhiram Jha, Amruta P Barhanpurkar, Mohan R Wani, Soumya Sinha Roy, Ulaganathan Mabalirajan, Balaram Ghosh and Anurag Agrawal. EMBO Volume 33, Issue 2, 13 January 2014. DOI: 10.1002/embj.201386030

Related Stories

A link between mitochondria and tumor formation in stem cells

October 10, 2008

Researchers report on a previously unknown relationship between stem cell potency and the metabolic rate of their mitochondria –a cell's energy makers. Stem cells with more active mitochondria also have a greater capacity ...

Tracking nanodiamond-tagged stem cells

August 5, 2013

A method that is used to track the fate of a single stem cell within mouse lung tissue is reported in a study published online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. The method may offer insights into the factors that determine ...

Stem cells on the road to specialization

January 7, 2014

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have gained new insight into how both early embryonic cells and embryonic stem cells are directed into becoming specialised cell types, like pancreatic and liver cells. The results ...

Recommended for you

Basic research fuels advanced discovery

August 26, 2016

Clinical trials and translational medicine have certainly given people hope and rapid pathways to cures for some of mankind's most troublesome diseases, but now is not the time to overlook the power of basic research, says ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.