Biomedical Updates

Resveratrol and Curcumin Induce Pluripotent Stem Cells

Reprogramming body cells to a pluripotent (capable of affecting more than one organ) state was first accomplished using the pluripotency-associated transcription factors of retroviruses. This work seeded the numerous studies that followed, reporting alternative reprogramming methods to enhance the efficiency of reprogramming. Yet, while these studies have not led to a clear understanding of the global mechanisms underlying reprogramming efficiency, a new report demonstrates that inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway by rapamycin or PP242 (both mTOR inhibitors) enhances the efficiency of reprogramming to induced pluripotent stem cells.1

Notably, inhibition of the insulin/IGF-1 signaling pathway also enhances reprogramming efficiency, and like the mTOR pathway, this pathway also is involved in controlling longevity. For example, the inhibitors of these pathways significantly extended the longevity of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies).

The study also tested the potential effects of six other longevity-promoting compounds on inducing pluripotent stem cells, including two sirtuin activators (resveratrol and the flavonoid fisetin), an autophagy inducer (spermidine), a PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase) inhibitor (LY294002), an antioxidant (curcumin), and an activating adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase activator (metformin).

Except for metformin, the other five of these compounds promoted somatic cell reprogramming, though to different extents. Quoting the authors of the study, “Our results show that the controllers of somatic cell reprogramming and organismal lifespan share some common regulatory pathways, which suggests a new approach for studying aging and longevity based on the regulation of cellular reprogramming.”


  1. Chen T, Shen L, Yu J, Wan H, Guo A, Chen J, Long Y, Zhao J, Pei G. Rapamycin and other longevity-promoting compounds enhance the generation of mouse induced pluripotent stem cells. Aging Cell 2011 May 25. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-9726.2011.00722.x. [Epub ahead of print]

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