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Sheela Abraham's lab defines extracellular vesicles during aging & effects on hematopoietic stem cells

Research Showcase - Sheela Abraham

SA: Our paper entitled ‘Blood extracellular vesicles from healthy individuals regulate hematopoietic stem cells as humans age’ was led by Isabelle Grenier-Pleau, who has done a fantastic job of identifying our initial observations that extracellular vesicles from older subjects stimulate haematopoietic stem cells. Isabelle is now entering her first year as a PhD candidate, and now will continue on with this work, teasing out potential mechanisms behind  these novel findings.

Overview:  Despite haematopoietic stem cells losing functionality over time, the production of blood cells is continuously maintained as humans age. We report here that circulating extracellular vesicles are continuously produced over adulthood, but change in composition. Functional data support that individuals over 40 years possess extracellular vesicles that stimulate haematopoietic stem cell proliferation and potentially help support blood production as humans age.

Abstract:  Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) maintain balanced blood cell production in a process called haematopoiesis. As humans age, their HSCs acquire mutations that allow some HSCs to disproportionately contribute to normal blood production. This process, known as age-related clonal haematopoiesis, predisposes certain individuals to cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary pathologies. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that factors outside cells, such as extracellular vesicles (EVs), contribute to the disruption of stem cell homeostasis during aging. We have characterized blood EVs from humans and determined that they are remarkably consistent with respect to size, concentration and total protein content, across healthy subjects aged 20-85 yr. When analyzing EV protein composition from mass spectroscopy data, our machine-learning-based algorithms are able to distinguish EV proteins based on age, and suggest that different cell types dominantly produce EVs released into the blood, which change over time. Importantly, our data shows blood EVs from middle and older age groups (>40 yr) significantly stimulate haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in contrast to untreated and EVs sourced from young subjects. Our study establishes for the first time that although EV particle size, concentration and total protein content remain relatively consistent over an adult lifespan in humans, EV content evolves during aging and potentially influences HSC regulation.

See paper in Aging Cell