Aging Immune System May Get Kick-Start from Discovery of Molecular Defect

Health and Medicine for Seniors

Aging Immune System May Get Kick-Start from Discovery of Molecular Defect

Old stem cells are not just sitting there with damaged DNA ready to develop cancer, as it has long been postulated

"The decline of stem-cell function is a big part of age-related problems. Achieving longer lives relies in part on achieving a better understanding of why stem cells are not able to maintain optimal functioning."

Emmanuelle Passegu, PhD

July 31, 2014 - There's a good reason seniors over 60 are not donor candidates for bone marrow transplantation. The immune system ages and weakens with time, making the elderly prone to life-threatening infection and other maladies, and a UC San Francisco research team now has discovered a reason why.

"We have found the cellular mechanism responsible for the inability of blood-forming cells to maintain blood production over time in an old organism, and have identified molecular defects that could be restored for rejuvenation therapies," said Emmanuelle Passegu, PhD, a professor of medicine and a member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF.

Passegu, an expert on the stem cells that give rise to the blood and immune system, led a team that published the new findings online July 30, 2014 in the journal Nature.

Blood and immune cells are short-lived, and unlike most tissues, must be constantly replenished. The cells that must keep producing them throughout a lifetime are called "hematopoietic stem cells."

Through cycles of cell division these stem cells preserve their own numbers and generate the daughter cells that give rise to replacement blood and immune cells. But the hematopoietic stem cells falter with age, because they lose the ability to replicate their DNA accurately and efficiently during cell division, Passegu's lab team determined.

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Aging Immune System May Get Kick-Start from Discovery of Molecular Defect

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