The Number and Quality of your Circulating Stem Cells may determine your Health and Biologic Age

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stem cells as repairmen

Do you have old stem cells?  As we age, it often gets harder to stay active and some of us will get sick. In the U.S., the leading cause of illness is heart related. While many proactive patients who are seeking to stay healthy longer are concerned about their hearts, brains, or livers-perhaps the “organ” they should be concerned about is their stem cells. We had another, not quite first story out last week, with researchers observing that mesechymal stem cells (MSCs) with a certain marker mobilize from the bone marrow into the blood stream in patients who were having a heart attack. Other studies have shown indirect evidence that the number and quality of these cells (along with the size of the area of the heart that’s being killed off by the blood clot) determine your ability to survive and thrive after a heart attack. In addition, also last week, a UC Berkeley team also discovered a stem cell type that lies dormant in the walls of blood vessels and can receive a switch to turn into the scar tissue that hardens arteries. Still other studies have previously shown that much smaller and earlier stage stem cells (VSELs) also are recruited from the bone marrow into your body to repair the damage caused by stroke and heart attack. In addition, very interesting was the fact that the number of circulating MSCs remained constant with the aging process, which may have implications for the treatment of aging. In essence, aging may be all about the drop in stem cell quality. The upshot? A picture seems to be emerging of stem cells as repairmen of the body: they keep us alive and healthy. Looking at their quality and figuring out ways to keep them young and active may help us stay the same.

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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