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Unlocking the Aging Process

Posted on December 29, 2017


Researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have found a way to slow down the loss of adult stem cells.

Their research could unlock potential changes in how the body ages.

Adult stem cells are basic, undifferentiated cells with the ability to develop into any type of tissue. Adult stem cells also have the power to multiply without limit to repair tissue damaged by illness and injury.

Located in Novato, California, the Buck Institute is an independent research facility focused on understanding the links between aging and chronic disease. The mission of the Buck Institute is to extend the healthy years of life.

Identifying Contributors to Aging

The Buck Institute research, published in Cell Stem Cell, outlines a study that analyzed the stem cells found in the trachea and muscle tissue of mice. The study found that TOR, a nutrient-sensing pathway, causes the gradual loss of adult stem cells during aging.

TOR regulates how the body uses nutrients for cell growth, survival and reproduction. It also plays a critical part in the aging process of deciding which and when adult stem cells die.

The Buck Institute found a way to control TOR by treating mice with the TOR-inhibitor rapamycin, in hopes of slowing down the loss of adult stem cells.

Minimizing the loss of adult stem cells could also help to slow down the aging process.

The study authors, in conjunction with Stanford University, treated mice as young as 15 months old, which is the equivalent to 50 years of age in humans, and older with rapamycin.

The researchers found that in every mouse treated with rapamycin, adult stem cells that were lost because of TOR activation were recovered.

What the researchers were unable to deduce through their project is if the recovery of the stem cells happened because the body recognized the loss of stem cells caused by TOR and replenished numbers from an existing stem cell pool, or if the stem cells divided to make new cells.

How Adult Stem Cells Work in the Body

Dr. Joel Singer is a New York physician who uses personal cell therapy to treat a range of health conditions, including those caused by aging, such as arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.

When personal cells are needed, the body puts out growth factor chemical messages to wake them from their sleeping state.

The cells then begin to divide themselves into two daughter cells during a process known as asymmetric division.

During asymmetric division, one daughter cell differentiates into the type of tissue needed for repair. The other daughter cell stays undifferentiated for future use.

The Buck researchers found that TOR is activated when adult stem cells are being used to regenerate damaged tissue during chronic illness or during aging, which means increased potential for losing more adult stem cells.

Increased activation of TOR is a double-edged sword because, during the aging process, the body is always in the process of losing and repairing cells.

“Over time, stem cells are gradually lost during aging because TOR is telling the stem cells to divide and repair constantly,” Singer said.

Buck researchers hope that the ability to control TOR through rapamycin or other interventions could mean a slowdown in the aging process.

“The ability to slow down adult stem cell loss means a boost in the health of tissues, and could mean changes in how the body ages,” Singer said.


Buck Institute for Research on Aging. “Inhibiting TOR boosts regenerative potential of adult tissues: Rapamycin prevents age-related loss of stem cells.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2017.


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