Anakinra, the elixir of youth?

Revitalizing Aging Blood System with Anti-Inflammatory Drug

A recent study published in Nature Cell Biology has found that an anti-inflammatory drug used for rheumatoid arthritis may be able to reverse some of the effects of aging on the blood system in mice. The drug, called anakinra, has been shown to have rejuvenating effects on the body’s blood cell-producing stem cells, which can become affected by age and lead to decreased production of red and white blood cells, impaired DNA protection, and increased risk of blood cancers.

Investigating the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Niche

Lead author Carl Mitchell and senior author Dr. Emmanuelle Passegué, Director of the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative, investigated the environment, or niche, that blood stem cells are found in, instead of the cells themselves. They discovered evidence of inflammation and deterioration in the aging hematopoietic stem cell niche that could be responsible for their loss of function. Blocking the action of the inflammatory signal interleukin-1 beta (IL-1B) with the drug anakinra returned the blood stem cells to a much healthier state.

Looking to Translate Results to Humans

The research team now aims to find out if the same process could work in human clinical trials. They also want to understand if improving the health of the stem cell niche earlier in life, such as in middle age, could have even more rejuvenating effects. “Only by having a deep molecular understanding will it be possible to identify approaches that can truly delay aging,” says Passegué.

Promising Results for Healthier Blood Production

The results of the study indicate that strategies aimed at maintaining a healthier blood production system in the elderly hold promise. “These results indicate that such strategies hold promise for maintaining healthier blood production in the elderly,” says Mitchell. By rejuvenating the body’s blood cell-producing stem cells, the drug anakinra may offer a new way to extend healthspan and potentially lifespan in older adults.

Reference: Mitchell CA, Verovskaya EV, Calero-Nieto FJ, et al. Stromal niche inflammation mediated by IL-1 signalling is a targetable driver of haematopoietic ageing. Nat Cell Biol. 2023;25(1):30-41.