Rando Videocast: Is aging reversible? : resetting the clock

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NIH Director’s Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series: The Annual Florence Mahoney Lecture

Aging is a process that is generally viewed as unidirectional, relentless, and inevitable. However, in addition to the existence of non-aging species, or at least species with negligible senescence, data from a wide range of living organisms suggests that environmental influences can markedly slow and even halt the aging process. Furthermore, recent experimental evidence suggests that aspects of the molecular and functional characteristics of aged cells and tissues even in mammals can be restored to a more youthful state. Analyses of age-related changes in cells have revealed clear epigenetic changes, and the reversibility of some of those processes, in essence leading to cell and tissue rejuvenation, suggest epigenetic mechanisms.

Current studies focus on understanding the nature and regulation of those epigenetic mechanisms and the extent to which the aging clock can be rewound or reset by defined environmental influences while leaving other cellular characteristics, such as their state of differentiation, intact.

Rando Podcast: Regenerative Medicine Today #111

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Regenerative Medicine Today welcomes Thomas Rando, MD, PhD. 

Dr. Rando discusses his research in muscle stem cell biology as well as his role in the upcoming Regenerative Rehabilitation Symposium in Pittsburgh.

 

 

Scientists trigger muscle stem cells to divide

Thomas Rando

BY KRISTA CONGER

A tiny piece of RNA plays a key role in determining when muscle stem cells from mice activate and start to divide, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding may help scientists learn how to prepare human muscle stem cells for use in therapies for conditions such as muscular dystrophy and aging by controlling their activation state.

It’s the first time that a small regulatory RNA, called a microRNA, has been implicated in the maintenance of the adult stem cell resting, or quiescent, state.

“Although on the surface the quiescent state seems to be relatively static, it’s quite actively maintained,” said Thomas Rando, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences. “We’ve found that changing the levels of just one specific microRNA in resting muscle stem cells, however, causes them to spring into action.”

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5 Questions: Rando on resetting the ‘aging clock,’ cell by cell

Thomas Rando

Advances in the study of stem cells have fueled hopes that someday, via regenerative medicine, doctors could restore aging people’s hearts, livers, brains and other organs and tissues to a more youthful state. A key to reaching this goal — to be able to provide stem cells that will differentiate into other types of cells a patient needs — appears to lie in understanding “epigenetics,” which involves chemical marks stapled onto DNA and its surrounding protein husk by specialized enzyme complexes inside a cell’s nucleus. These markings produce long-lasting changes in genes’ activity levels within the cell — locking genes into an “on” or “off” position. Epigenetic processes enable cells to remain true to type (a neuron, for instance, never suddenly morphs into a fat cell) even though all our cells, regardless of type, share the same genetic code. But epigenetic processes also appear to play a critical role in reducing cells’ vitality as they age.

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Huge VA project to boost med school mission

A new $54 million mental health center is part of a $1-billion-plus renewal project under way at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and its flagship campus on Miranda Avenue.

BY JONATHAN RABINOVITZ

A dozen state-of the-art buildings that will advance the medical school’s clinical, educational and research missions are beginning to rise, but Stanford isn’t leading the effort.

With a construction budget of more than $1 billion, the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, or VAPAHCS, has launched an ambitious building project on its flagship campus on Miranda Avenue in Palo Alto, leaving almost no spot of the 93-acre site untouched. The plan includes a new mental health center; the Department of Veterans Affairs’ largest rehabilitation center, which will combine polytrauma and blind rehabilitation; additional research space; and additional lodging facilities for veteran patients and family members.

The project is driven by an emphasis on patient-centric care and concerns about seismic safety. The project is also part of a broader shift by the VA and health care in general toward more outpatient services, concentrating the most advanced tertiary care services at flagship facilities, such as the Palo Alto site. VAPAHCS, in addition to revamping and expanding its outpatient facilities outside the Palo Alto campus, is taking steps to ensure that its main campus continues to offer the latest treatment modalities and meet new and pressing needs, such as those of the increasing numbers of veterans who have suffered multiple injuries, including traumatic brain injury. As part of that process, VAPAHCS is enhancing its 50-year affiliation with the School of Medicine, adding space for the education of Stanford doctors who treat veterans and the research by Stanford faculty on injuries and illness that affect veterans and others.

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