Link between stem cells and aging

by Savitha C Muppala on  September 7, 2006 at 4:22 PM Research News   - G J E 4
Link between stem cells and aging
A solitary gene when switched off can actually rejuvenate the lives of three different varieties of stem cells, as observed by researchers while studying its effects on mice. Further it was observed that the stem cells offered protection against cancer, by actually switching off as they age, to shoo away the onset of cancer.

Stem cells enable the body to repair itself at it ages, and incapacitated stem cells will not be able to serve this purpose. Researching into this area, led to the identification of a protein, called p16Ink4a , that collects in stem cells over time and has a bearing on its longevity. To understand the role of this protein in the stem cells, and the link to longevity, scientists observed the life span of mice after removing this essential gene. Scientists found that mice started dying from a variety of cancers at relatively young ages.

Even more startling was the discovery that the mice that survived till old, had almost double the normal numbers of neurons in their forebrains Over expressing Ink4a in young mice also reduced the number of islet cells hastening the aging of the mice albeit prematurely. The researchers were led to think that the protein protects against cancer by offsetting the reproduction of stem cells when they are old, a condition, which is known, to produce cancer.

Source: Medindia

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