To understand how stem cells are linked to the process of aging we first need to understand how stem cells work and we aren’t quite there yet. So far, what’s been scientifically proven is that stem cells are a type of cells that sort of “give birth” to the rest of your body cells. By doing that they can literally transform into any sort of more specialized cell – skin cell, muscle cell, liver cell, nerve cell, etc. One of the most widely accepted theories about aging is that some of our body’s stem cells stop creating cells for us or basically stop multiplying altogether. This leads to deteriorating functions of most organs and tissues, which on its own leads to further loss of stem cells. In other words this is a cycle which, once initiated, leads to one thing only – people getting old.
In order to maintain your stem cell count high (or better said – optimal) cells need to follow a few rules. First and foremost, the speed of proliferation (multiplication), quiescence and homing should be the same as one of the differentiations (specialization). This means that the amount of cells that are being created out of stem cells should always be equal or lower than the number of new stem cells otherwise our body’s needs won’t be met and the internal organs and tissues will suffer from a lack of new cells.
When it comes to a possible therapeutic use of those stem cells for anti-aging effects for instance, there are a few major challenges. Firstly, even though all cells theoretically come from the same stem cells, they have different lifespans. This means that aging occurs at different rates throughout our bodies and is therefore much harder to control that we initially thought. Another issue is that continuous use of stem cells as a source of replenishment for body cells can lead to “stem cell fatigue”, ultimately making things worse for our biological clock.
To learn more about the various type of stem cells and their storage procedures, head out to our main page.
Stem Cell Research On Aging
Before we get to actual stem cells helping people age slower, it is important to point out that there have been numerous researches on the matter of stem cell aging (the actual cells aging themselves). Since those cells divide more they tend to absorb more damage over time and age quite fast along with a substantial loss of their proper function. This is mostly bad because stem cell aging has been directly linked to heart failure.
The Role of Hematopoietic Stem Cells In Aging
Another type of stem cells that take part in your cell regeneration are the HSCs (hematopoietic stem cells). They form all of your blood cells. During their aging process a lot of their own DNA breaks down and that leads to long-term damage and malfunctions in the multiplication and specialization of the newly created blood cells.
Our Biological Clock
As we said, aging in tissues is directly linked to degenerative changes in the stem cells responsible for the regeneration properties of the said tissue. If we can understand the molecular mechanisms which are behind all this, we will be able to develop new therapies for diseases which revolve around cells getting older and therefore incapable of doing their job properly (Multiple Sclerosis).
The changes that occur in tissues during the process of aging are quite universal for all animal species. This allows us to test various theories on lab rats and other mammals. Macro- and microscopic changes are almost always linked to the impairment of normal tissue function due to lack of potent tissue-specific stem cells.
The tissue-specific stem cells are long-living cells which have the option of multiplying between themselves and specialize in tissue cells at the same time. That way they can maintain the stem cell and the tissue cell populations adequately all the time. They are responsible for the individual health of every tissue in our body. The skin has its tissue-specific stem cells at its basal layers. From then upward they create every cell that the skin needs. Same goes for the other organs. The heart muscle cells die on a daily basis which leaves the heart with the problem of cell regeneration or replacement. This is where the tissue-specific stem cells for the heart come to play. They work constantly to replace every muscle cell. If the heart is working more than it should, the newer cells will be bigger and more agile than the old ones. This is called tissue hypertrophy. It happens with professional athletes and active runners.
The goal of most stem cell researchers is to be able to “import” healthy stem cells into your bloodstream. From there, if they are marked as tissue specific for the skin they will get into your skin depots. This is why stem cell transplants are on the raise lately. Furthermore, this is the reason people store away their baby’s stem cells from the cord blood at birth. Since stem cells are highly specific there has to be a close match between the donor and the recipient for them to work. Families have a high match chance, therefore the baby’s stem cells will work for most of the closer relatives.
Some Last Words
So, in fact, as a conclusion, aging and stem cells are directly related and while stem cells can be used to treat some aging symptoms, they are the cells that make our body get old and actually look like its getting old. Since stem cells are the longest living cells in our body they accumulate immense amount of cell damage over time which ultimately leads to cell death. Stem cell death means that tissues won’t have their normal regenerative functions anymore and thus they become more susceptible to damage. This will lead to all of our tissues losing their main functions and them not being able to play their role in the overall homeostasis. The skin gets less cells which leads to less elasticity, less softness, etc. The liver won’t get its cells renewed leading to dysfunction which affects pretty much every chemical process in our body. Same goes with the brain, heart, lungs, muscles, and all other organs. This is why stem cells are both the future and the thing that limits our future.