Ageing linked to cancer

October 8, 2012
Ageing linked to cancer
Credit: Shutterstock

Ageing is an unavoidable part of life, and it is often accompanied by a number of age-related illnesses. One of the biggest diseases associated with ageing is cancer, which as a result is often referred to as a 'disease of ageing'. As well as being of significant concern to individuals, ageing also represents a major concern to healthcare providers and society as a whole. However, while ageing is unavoidable, the diseases associated with old age need not be. And that's what the researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) are trying to accomplish.

Throughout the ages and across the world people have tried to understand exactly what causes ageing, but even today we still don't fully understand the phenomenon. Why does the body undergo a over the course of time? The research team at the CRG believe that they may have uncovered a that may help then understand not only how ageing may occur, but also how ageing may promote the development of diseases such as cancer.

The researchers focused their attention on skin: one of the most obvious tissues to undergo ageing. Everybody can witness skin ageing, be it wrinkling or thinning of the skin, or even reduced wound-healing ability. In humans it is the largest organ, and just like the other parts of the body, it is constantly replacing dead and damaged cells with new healthy ones. In order to achieve this, each tissue relies on populations of known as . 'These cells are unique in their ability, as they are able to grow and differentiate into all the other different cells types in the , as well as tolerating stress and damage better than non-stem cells. This process of and renewal is something that was thought to occur all throughout life,' says Jason Doles, the first author on the study and a at the CRG. By studying skin stem cells during the , the researchers hoped to see if changes in stem cell function might contribute to ageing. What they found was that during the ageing process, skin stem cells actually lose their ability to function properly. 'We have discovered that major changes occur in these stem cells during ageing, whereby stem cells exhibit impaired growth in older animals as compared to their more youthful counterparts. We also found that the aged stem cells are not able to tolerate stress as well as young stem cells, strongly supporting the idea that changes in stem cell function might actually drive the ageing process,' said Bill Keyes, who is group leader of the Mechanisms of Cancer and Aging lab at the CRG and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Genes & Development.

The discoveries didn't stop there, however. Their research was also critical in uncovering novel processes driving skin stem cell ageing, and linking the ageing process with diseases such as cancer. According to a recent study from the same group, they demonstrated that these same stem cells become deregulated during the development of squamous cell carcinoma, a deadly type of skin cancer. The current study performed high-throughput profiling of the ageing stem cells and identified a likely cause of the loss of function during ageing. They demonstrated that during normal ageing, the entire skin changes: it produces many different proteins that mediate inflammation, and that it is the abnormal production of these inflammatory-mediators that contributes to the decline of stem cell function. Given that the link between inflammation and the development of cancer has been long known, the current study uncovers important findings on how the two might be linked.

Much like a jigsaw puzzle, the researchers believe that altogether, these findings help to explain the most likely principal cause of the ageing process and how this develops. As a result, it opens the door for future studies that may help to alleviate aspects of the ageing process. But in addition, with the identification of inflammation as a cause of stem cell dysfunction, the study also uncovers likely causes in the development of cancer.

Explore further: Stem cell foundation for muscular dystrophy treatment

More information: Centre for Genomic Regulation: www.crg.es
Genes & Development: genesdev.cshlp.org/

Related Stories

Stem cell foundation for muscular dystrophy treatment

July 14, 2011
Research at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) at Monash University could lay the groundwork for new muscular dystrophy treatments.

Discovering how the brain ages

September 12, 2012
Researchers at Newcastle University have revealed the mechanism by which neurons, the nerve cells in the brain and other parts of the body, age. The research, published today in Aging Cell, opens up new avenues of understanding ...

Live longer with fewer calories

October 31, 2011
By consuming fewer calories, ageing can be slowed down and the development of age-related diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes can be delayed. The earlier calorie intake is reduced, the greater the effect. Researchers ...

Recommended for you

Newly revealed autism-related genes include genes involved in cancer

September 25, 2017
The identification of genes related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) could help to better understand the disorder and develop new treatments. While scientists have found many genetic differences in different people with ...

Scientists first to use genetic engineering technique to investigate Tourette's

September 25, 2017
Scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick are the first to use a genetic engineering technique to create brain cells from the blood cells of individuals in a three-generation family with Tourette syndrome to help determine ...

Study reveals an ancient Achilles heel in the human genome

September 21, 2017
In a major study published today, researchers at deCODE genetics use whole-genome data from 14,000 people from across the population of Iceland, including 1500 sets of parents and children, to provide the most detailed portrait ...

Forgotten strands of DNA initiate the development of immune cells

September 21, 2017
Intricate human physiological features such as the immune system require exquisite formation and timing to develop properly. Genetic elements must be activated at just the right moment, across vast distances of genomic space.

Genome editing reveals role of gene important for human embryo development

September 20, 2017
Researchers have used genome editing technology to reveal the role of a key gene in human embryos in the first few days of development. This is the first time that genome editing has been used to study gene function in human ...

A piece of the puzzle: Eight autism-related mutations in one gene

September 19, 2017
Scientists have identified a hotspot for autism-related mutations in a single gene.

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.