Understanding the process of aging: UAS Technikum Wien research project seeks methods to influence cell aging and tissue regeneration

In the project "Aging Tissue", funded by the City of Vienna, a team of scientists at the UAS Technikum Wien is investigating the effects of age on the regenerative capacity of body tissue. The aim is to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of age-specific diseases and to find starting points for anti-aging treatments.

Grafik Aging Tissue UAS Technikum Wien

Life expectancy in industrialized countries has risen steadily in recent decades. However, with increasing age, age-related diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, neurodegenerative diseases, certain cancers or wound healing disorders are becoming more frequent. The regenerative capacity of body tissues or cells also diminishes with age. "It's an issue that will affect all of us at some point - for example, in bone or muscle injuries, or if you ever need an artificial joint," says Gordin Zupkovitz of the Tissue Engineering and Molecular Life Science Technologies research focus area at the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien.

In a project funded by the City of Vienna (MA23), a research team at our university now wants to investigate in more detail what effects age has on the regenerative capacity of body tissue. The Tissue Engineering department at Austria's University of Applied Sciences has been working intensively for years on methods for constructing and cultivating artificial tissue. For example, it has developed methods for generating skeletal and cardiac muscle, nerve and cartilage tissue. The scientists are also working on models for tissue regeneration and mechanical cell stimulation.

Cell aging in the laboratory

The "Aging Tissue" project will initially develop methods for artificially reproducing cell aging in the laboratory. Basically, cells can "age" in two different ways: either by stopping the division process after many replication cycles or due to stress. An accumulation of aged cells also promotes the development of certain diseases, can trigger inflammation and can have a negative impact on the regeneration potential.

The project team intends to investigate the aging process of cells in the laboratory using 3D tissue structures. In doing so, the methods already developed at the UAS Technikum Wien will be used to find ways of influencing the aging and regeneration of tissues. Subsequently, the scientists hope to be able to derive measures against age-specific diseases such as osteoarthritis or phenomena such as muscle atrophy.

Shock wave therapy as a possible treatment

To influence tissue regeneration, there are already established chemical and biophysical methods. Biophysical methods include so-called shock waves - high-energy acoustic waves similar to ultrasound, which are already used in the treatment of kidney stones, wound regeneration, inflammation and pain therapy. As part of the project, the team of scientists intends to explore the effects of shock wave therapy (SWT) on cellular aging processes. "Above all, we want to investigate in more detail what happens here at the molecular level," says Gordin Zupkovitz.

The SWT method for treating cell cultures at Technikum Wien was developed by Anna Weihs, who will join the AgingTissue team this September. In addition to Zupkovitz, the project team also includes Dorota Szwarc and Carina Hromada, whose dissertations focus on the regeneration of heart and nerve muscles, respectively.

In addition to biophysical methods, the scientists will also analyze certain ingredients in food and their protective effect on cells as well as their influence on regenerative capacity as part of the project. For example, some edible plants produce the substance resveratrol in response to injury or attack by harmful pathogens. The project team intends to investigate such chemical compounds in more detail and, based on this, test the effects of potential anti-aging agents in 3D tissue models.

Using findings in teaching at the UAS Technikum Wien

Although the focus of the Aging Tissue project is on research, all findings from it will also be used for teaching, says Gordin Zupkovitz. With its master's program in Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine, Technikum Wien is the only university of applied sciences in Austria to offer a specific, part-time program in this field. With Biomedical Engineering, there is also a thematically associated Bachelor's program at the UAS Technikum Wien. The subject area of aging is also to be prepared and used across disciplines for other courses of study at the Faculty of Life Science Engineering. Finally, the integration of the research results and the general topic is relevant for education in several departments and study programs of our university.

Pictures for Download (via Technikum Cloud), Credit: FHTW

Thomas Prlic
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