What causes aging and how can it be altered? According to University of Toronto researchers, the loss of our tissues’ ability to develop and repair itself can be manipulated, leading to claims that the removal of TIMPs — tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases — could direct us toward a Fountain of Youth.
Simplified, metalloproteins are responsible for destroying and rebuilding the body’s tissue, and TIMPs control metalloproteins.
Researchers at U of T bred mice without TIMPs. They experimented with mice that had various combinations of the four TIMPs expressed.
What they found was that removing TIMP1 and TIMP3 from mice resulted in breast tissue that remained youthful in aged mice.
What was happening, the scientists discovered, was that stem cells, which usually decline with age, remained functional and abundant during the full life of the mice, so tissues maintained their ability to develop and repair.
This also resulted in less risk of breast cancer in the mice. Because the mammary glands did not degenerate as they normally would, the healthy cells were less susceptible to cancer.
Also relevant, the researchers found no increased risk of cancer, despite the larger amount of stem cells present.
The team will next attempt to push their research toward the realm of new therapeutic treatments for cancer patients through tissue remodelling.
The report, “Expansion of stem cells counteracts age-related mammary regression in compound Timp1/Timp3 null mice,” was completed by Hartland W. Jackson, Paul Waterhouse, Ankit Sinha, Thomas Kislinger, Hal K. Berman, and Rama Khokha, and was publised in Nature Cell Biology.
By Cheryl Bretton