Can Replenishing the Brain’s Stem Cells Slow Aging?

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slow aging

For the last 1-2 decades, scientists have conceptualized aging as a problem of burnt out and shortened telomeres, which are the biologic clocks on the end of our DNA. Shorter telomeres=older cells=aged person. However, what if it wasn’t that simple? What if aging were really controlled by the brain? A breakthrough discovery has shown that stem cells in a specific portion of the brain have the power to make older mice young. Huh?

Many Scientific Connections Have Been Thought to Slow Aging

Let’s first review what this blog has covered on aging:

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Hypothalamus Stem Cells and the Link to Aging

Researchers in this new study first determined in mice that neural stem cells in the hypothalamus drastically decreased as mice aged. To study the link between the aging and the loss of the stem cells, researchers then intentionally destroyed neural stem cells in the hypothalamus of mice by injecting a virus. Focusing on indicators such as memory, endurance, and muscle strength, they observed faster aging in these mice. In addition, the test mice experienced earlier deaths than the control-subject mice whose stem cells had not been destroyed. In the next phase of the study, researchers replenished hypothalamus stem cells in middle-aged mice with hypothalamus stem cells from newborn mice. Compared to the control-subject mice who had not been injected with stem cells, the stem cells were able to successfully slow aging in the test mice and also increased their lifespan by 10%.

Digging a bit deeper, the researchers also discovered that the answer to how these specific stem cells slow aging seems to lie in the unique ability of the hypothalamus stem cells to release microRNA through exosomes (tiny packets). MicroRNA are small molecules that aid in the regulation of gene expression and once released affect the whole body; researchers aren’t sure if this effect is direct (via the microRNA moving throughout the body once released) or indirect (via the microRNA impacting the brain upon release and then the body), so more research will focus toward answering these lingering questions.

The upshot? This is a huge discovery because it upends our notion of what causes aging. If these results are replicated, you could see the mass production of young hypothalamus stem cells and precise injection based implantation into the hypothalamus as a way to extend both health and lifespan. Who ever said aging was all in your head was likely right! I’ll leave you with a Mark Twain quote:

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