In ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Benjamin is born as a 70-year-old man and ages in reverse. It’s said that this story was inspired by a rare genetic condition called progeria, where patients begin ageing dramatically from a very early age. The condition primarily affects vascular [vessel] cells, which undergo biomechanical strain, leading to fatal cardiovascular diseases. As the strain experienced in the blood vessels is hard to study, researchers have developed a new ‘progeria-on-a-chip’ model that mimics the dynamics within the blood vessels. Using this model, they saw that smooth muscle cells (pictured) – which make up the artery wall – from patients with progeria showed increased signs of inflammation and DNA damage – features of vascular disease and ageing. Blocking this inflammation with certain drugs reversed the damage to the cells, providing insight into molecular pathways which drive vascular ageing in progeria.
Written by Katie Panteli
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