Rapid decrepitude linked to impaired growth of new blood cells

(ORDO NEWS) — White and red blood cells in older people are produced by a very small group of stem cells: after 65 years of age, their diversity drops sharply, accelerating the aging of the whole organism.

Many people remain healthy and active even after 60 years. However, with the transition to the next ten, there are sharply fewer of these: at this age, the body is rapidly decrepit.

Recent studies show that such changes may be associated with a catastrophic violation of hematopoiesis – the production of new blood cells, which occurs in old age. Perhaps something similar happens with other organs and systems.

The international team of scientists was led by Peter Campbell of the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute. Biologists examined blood samples taken from representatives of different age groups – from infants to 80-year-olds.

Screening of the erythrocytes and leukocytes they contain has shown that, for most of their lives, they represent a wide range of populations that are generated by many – from 20,000 to 200,000 – stem cells active in the bone marrow.

However, after about 65 years of age, something unexpected happens to them, and the populations begin to be dominated by the descendants of a small number of stem cells.

About half of the red and white blood cells in humans in the last period of life are produced by only a couple of dozen stem cells. The diversity of the cellular population of the blood falls catastrophically.

Scientists attribute this to the occurrence of mutations that occur throughout life, including in stem cells. Most of these mutations are neutral and do not affect anything, but occasionally there are those that allow the stem cell to develop and divide slightly faster than the others.

At first, this is almost imperceptible: only over time the difference accumulates, and such cells begin to dominate the production of blood. And the monotony of cell populations leads to a decrease in their “quality” and the development of many diseases.

Perhaps in old age, such processes occur not only in the blood. Peter Campbell and his colleagues suggest that cell populations in other organs and tissues, from the skin to the liver, degrade in a similar way.

Scientists intend to test this in future experiments, but for now, they remind us that many bad habits and an unhealthy lifestyle contribute to the accelerated accumulation of mutations and, thereby, premature decrepitude.

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