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Current aging research trends

by Sasha Crowe Published on 10th Jun 2015

by Sasha Crowe Published on 10th June 2015

Cell Stem Cell recently published a special review issue focusing on what’s currently happening in the field of aging research, of which Medicalnewstoday highlighted 3 current trends and directions research is heading. They are:

Being a female

It has long been observed that females on average live longer. In fact over 95% of supercentenarians are female. However, there still lacks a fixed explanation as to why this is. New research on the topic focuses on the differences in regenerative decline between the two sexes. This includes the impact gender hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, have on lifespan. It has already been established that estrogen is somehow connected to healthspan, as estrogen supplements given to male mice have been found to increase their lifespan, and that human eunuchs live on average 14 years longer than their fully male counterparts. Nonetheless, more work needs to be done in this regard, as it is not fully understood how genetic differences between males and females impact upon aging.

Modeling aging in a dish

An important step to combating age-related, genetic diseases lies in how they are studied. A major problem science faces when modeling these diseases in a dish with stem cells, is that those cells are not the same age as the cells present in the patient who has the disease being studied. The reprogrammed stem cells (also known as iPSCs) taken from the diseased patient will not be damaged in the same way as found in the patient. Hence making what’s in the dish an inaccurate representation of what’s actually present in the patient. In order to fully understand the mechanisms of the disease, researchers must be able to model the late-onset conditions associated with the disease. New methods for cell maturation are being studied solely for this purpose. Current methods being tested include stressing iPSCs by exposing them to toxins and expressing genes known to cause diseases of premature aging. Once science holds the key to programming cellular age on demand, they will be able to model human disorders with stunning precision and possibly decode the mystery of aging. 

A theory behind why germ cells don’t seem to age

Germ cells (the cells used in reproduction, such as sperm and egg cells) obtain their energy from mitochondrial respiration, whereas stem cells instead use the more inefficient and more prone-to-mutations method of breaking down sugars. This difference in metabolism could possibly explain why the cells that make up our bodies are more prone to aging, versus our seemingly immortal germ cells. It has been postulated that the evolutionary purpose behind the cells are what contributes to maintenance in stem cells and selection in germ cells. This reflects on previous findings, in that longevity is connected to how a cell gets its nutrients.

Read more @ medicalnewstoday