Westmead research unearths one key to stop ageing

Associate Professor Natasha Rogers and Dr Kedar Ghimire.

New research from the Westmead Health Precinct has discovered why some parts of our body start to worsen with age.

The study, led by Associate Professor Natasha Rogers and Dr Kedar Ghimire at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR), demonstrated the protein CD47 drives dysfunctions including decreased circulation and metabolism.

The research team discovered that interrupting CD47’s ability to function in ageing has the potential to slow or stop these dysfunctions.

It is hoped that therapies targeting this protein will be able to reduce the impact of these health issues on older people around the world.

A/Prof Rogers, who is also a kidney doctor at Westmead Hospital, said the group studied the role of CD47 in ageing in both humans and animals.

“We have identified that, as we age, CD47 levels increase in our blood vessels. We also noticed a reduction of self-renewal transcription factors in arteries. These factors help cells divide to make more cells, continuing the cell pool throughout life,” A/Prof Rogers said.

“We wondered what effects reducing CD47’s function would have on vascular and metabolic function in old age.”

Dr Ghimire, who conceptualised and conducted the study, found the answer.

“In older mice, we observed that endothelial cells that form the inner lining of arteries showed signs of exhaustion, including decreased proliferation, migration and tube formation. However, when the same cells were devoid of CD47, they did not show signs of this deterioration. We also treated the arteries of older people with a CD47 blocking antibody and observed the same effects,” Dr Ghimire said.

This study indicates that CD47 increases during ageing and facilitates the dysfunction of arteries and metabolic balance. If this protein is not allowed to function during ageing, many of these health issues can be minimised.

“With the aged population currently at its highest level in human history and expected to increase in coming years, reducing the health risks to older community members has never been more vital,” A/Prof Rogers said.

“Our findings provide a strong indication that a therapy to target CD47 could minimise some of these serious dysfunctions associated with ageing.”

Dr Ghimire said: ‘’As a next step, we plan to study the consequences of increased CD47 in human metabolism and hope to unravel the effects of CD47 in diabetes.”

This research was published in Cells.