Fasting Boosts Stem Cells’ Regenerative Capacity
A new drug has been found to have similar benefits to that of a 24-hour fast.
Stem cells in intestines lose their ability to regenerate new ones over time, which makes it more and more difficult to recover from gastro-related conditions, infections and diseases. A new study by MIT biologists has discovered that a 24-hour fast can turn back the hands of time and make the stem cells better at regeneration in old and young mice subjects.
During fasting, the mice’s stem cells changed from breaking down glucose to fatty acids, which stimulated its greater regenerative abilities. Furthermore, the team at MIT found a molecule that could speed the healing process by turning on a metabolic ‘switch’, which may be used to help people suffering from cancer and GI infections in the future.
MIT assistant professor and senior author Omer Yilmaz, says that fasting can be beneficial for an individual’s intestine as it can boost cell renewal and healing of ailments that involve the intestinal tract, e.g., cancers and infections. He further mentions that his lab is primarily focused on understanding how fasting works and how the intestinal stem cells change and repair during regeneration and the aging process.
Senior author and MIT biology professor David Sabatini says that the new study discovered that fasting activated a metabolic ‘switch’ that changed the stem cell’s behavior to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. The change affected the cell’s function for the better, and these findings may pave a path to providing therapeutic options for improving age-related tissue homeostasis.
Yilmaz and team have long since known the relationship between low caloric intake and human longevity. They then tried to find out how fasting works at the molecular level.
Intestinal stem cells maintain the lining, which is renewed every 5 days. When an individual suffers from an intestinal infection or injury, the stem cells begin repair. Over time, this ability is lessened and people experience a longer recovery period.
Researchers collected intestinal stem cell samples from 24-hour fasted mice and grew them in a lab. They then waited to see if the samples could become organoids, or cells that functioned like mini intestines. Furthermore, the team discovered that the fasted mice enjoyed augmented regenerative functions.
Maria Mihaylova, a postdoc at the Whitehead Institute states that fasting gave the intestine the power it needs to create stem cell-driven organoids in both aged and young mice.
Subsequent studies, including having the mice stem cell’s RNA sequenced, showed that the act of fasting flipped an internal metabolic switch that began metabolizing fatty acids instead of carbohydrates. Transcription factors known as PPARs were activated, which enabled genes involved in fatty acid metabolization.
Turning off the pathway deactivated fasting’s ability to facilitate rapid healing. The team intends to study the switch and how it commands the stem cells to start the healing process.
The MIT group also discovered that they could emulate the benefits of fasting by adding a molecule that worked similarly to that of PPARs. Cheng mentioned how they were surprised to find that activating a single metabolic pathway could potentially reverse age phenotypes.
Utah University School of Medicine professor Jared Rutter described the study as ‘important and interesting’. He stated that the paper clearly marked that fasting could cause a metabolic shift in intestinal stem cells and change its behavior to begin cell division. Within the experiments, the authors found that introducing a molecule could lead to the same benefits as fasting without going through the motions.
The study also proves that drug treatment could potentially induce a regenerative state without having the patient fast for 24 hours, which could improve its adoption rate. For instance, cancer patients who are under chemotherapy can recover from damaged intestinal cells. The aged population who are susceptible to gastrointestinal disorders and infections can benefit from this research as well.
The MIT team plan to explore other kinds of treatments and how fasting could affect other tissue or boost the regenerative abilities of stem cells.
To your health,
The Healing Miracle Team
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