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Stem Cells and Ageing

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 27 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Stem Cells Aging Youth Precursors

Despite ageing being a natural and inevitable process for every human being there is still merit to maintaining health and keeping the body as ‘young’ as possible, both for preventing diseases that are associated with age as well as enjoying the aesthetic benefits of youth. Stem cells have been suggested as an important link to understanding the ageing process. In particular, it is thought that a decrease in the number of stem cells may impact the ageing of human tissues. Stem cells help to replenish ageing and damaged cells, which serves to maintain healthy and functioning tissues.

Recent Research on Stem Cells and Ageing

There have been numerous studies examining the link between stem cells and ageing. Some have delved into the interactions with our genes while others have looked at various constituents of tissues and how they relate to stem cells and aging. One study looked at several factors involved in the control of stem cells and aging. The team looked at a specific group of bone proteins known as bone morphogenic proteins. These proteins are heavily involved in tissue development around the body. Researchers discovered that when these particular proteins decreased with age, the stem cells were less able to multiply. This ultimately led to a reduction in the numbers of stem cells present in the body. In addition, when the signalling between these proteins increased, the stem cell populations also increased, which further strengthened the connection between stem cells and aging.

Other studies have examined the relationship between genes, ageing and stem cells. For example, a recent study, which used blood cells precursors called hematopoietic stem cells, found that our genes that are active in responses to stress and inflammation become more active as we age but the genes that regulate the gene expression itself become less active. As we age, it’s believed that inflammation increases throughout the body, especially in areas like the arteries, brain and kidneys. This means that these stem cells, just like other cells in our bodies, are susceptible to the degradation that comes with age, which helps us to better understand the dynamics of the aging process.

Consequences for Ageing

The impact of newfound knowledge into the link between stem cells and ageing would likely have an enormous effect on our ability to then manipulate the process and slow down the ageing process. By slowing the ageing process, the development of age-related diseases could be reduced, thereby reducing both the frequency of the diseases as well as the morbidity associated with their onset. For those focused on the visual signs of aging, including wrinkles, an understanding of the relationship between stem cells and aging could lead to treatments to slow the ageing process of the skin. It is hoped that increased interest into the link between ageing and stem cells is explored in more detail. Whether your own personal concerns relate to the aesthetic effects of aging or the effects related to organ health and disease, the correlation between stem cells and ageing is one that you can continue to monitor because it may one day provide benefits for your own health and appearance.

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