The Effects of Age On Stem Cells

From PLoS Biology, a close look at what happens to stem cells with advancing age. Getting down to the nuts and bolts both raises more questions than are answered, and sheds light on a range of areas, from regeneration through to cancer: "The effect of age on the regenerative capacity of adult stem cells, which should rejuvenate tissues throughout life, is poorly understood. Bone marrow stem cells, also known as hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), continuously regenerate the cells that comprise the blood, including the immune system, which fails with age. Here, we show that older HSCs were less able to regenerate the blood system than young HSCs. Paradoxically, the HSC number increased concomitantly, leading to no major difference in overall blood production, even though the immune system did exhibit some defects. ... evidence supports the idea that loss of overall gene regulation (epigenetic regulation) is a major event during aging. Whereas much of aging research is concentrated on accumulation of mutations in DNA rather than on global regulatory mechanisms, we speculate that these epigenetic changes could drive many of the manifestations of age. This view also may explain the increased incidence of cancer with age."

Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050201

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