JERUSALEM, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Israeli researchers have found a new mechanism that supervises the identity of mature cells, which could lead to improved treatments for aging-associated diseases, the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) said Sunday.
Maintaining cellular identity is essential for the functioning of the cell, the tissue and the survival of the living creature.
The research, published in the journal eLife, focused on enterocytes, the primary mature cells in the inner wall of the small intestine in the fermentation fly model.
The team examined what happens after differentiation of stem cells, giving rise to other cell types in the body, and focused on how mature cells safeguard their identity.
It turned out that the identity preservation is not a default option, and the fact that a gut cell does not at times become a skin cell, for example, is not self-evident. Thus, safeguarding the mature state requires constant effort by active molecular mechanisms.
Without strict control, the gene system required for the designated cell type will manifest itself, and irrelevant programs will manifest out of place. Such disruptions will impair the tissue's ability to perform its physiological tasks.
It was found that the main factors in preserving cellular identity are the transcription factor Hey and the proteins in the vicinity of the cell nucleus envelope.
In aging cells, the level of Hey decreases, leading to loss of the unique structure of the nucleus, and thereby loss of cell identity and physiological impartment of the gut tissue.
Next, the researchers demonstrated that genetic manipulation leading to the acute deficiency of Hey or lamin in enterocytes leads to premature aging of the intestinal tissue and premature death of young flies.
In contrast, strengthening the expression of the Hey gene in enterocytes prevented the appearance of defects related to the aging of gut cells, thereby improving the functioning of the gut tissue and slowing its aging.