Researchers have discovered a molecule that has the potential to reverse age-related decline in immune function. Published in Nature Aging, this groundbreaking research brings us closer to the possibility of extending both lifespan and overall health.

As we age, our immune system weakens, making us more susceptible to infections, diseases, and tumors. The key to a well-functioning immune system lies in our hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), which are responsible for producing all types of blood cells. Stem cells have the ability to differentiate into various types of cells, making them essential for immune cell production.

However, as we age, hematopoietic stem cells lose their ability to produce the necessary immune cells and lean towards producing a specific blood cell lineage. Additionally, aged stem cells accumulate an abnormal amount of mitochondria, impeding their metabolic functions. These factors limit the production of immune cells and weaken the body’s defense against toxins and pathogens.

To address this decline, researchers focused on restoring mitochondrial health. They found that urolithin A, a natural compound known to improve metabolic fitness, could restore mitochondrial function and enhance blood cell production. In a series of experiments, hematopoietic stem cells were exposed to urolithin A and then transplanted into mice exposed to lethal levels of radiation. These mice successfully recovered as urolithin A restored the aged stem cells’ ability to produce blood cells.

In a separate experiment, old mice were given a urolithin A-enriched diet, leading to improved performance of hematopoietic stem cells and increased immune cell production. Specifically, these rejuvenated stem cells resulted in a stronger immune response, making the mice more effective in fighting viral infections.

This research confirms that urolithin A rejuvenates hematopoietic stem cells and preserves their ability to produce all types of blood cells. As a result, immune function improves, and resistance to infections is strengthened. While it will take time for these findings to translate into consumer-ready therapies, incorporating urolithin A-rich foods such as raspberries, walnuts, almonds, strawberries, and pomegranates into the diet may have potential health benefits.

– Nature Aging: original article
– Cell: Urolithin A rejuvenates hematopoietic stem cells to enhance muscle function in aged mice
– ScienceDirect: Heterogeneity of hematopoietic stem cells: subsets, functional properties, and therapeutic implications