Older might mean wiser, but within our bodies lots of things don’t work as well. In particular, the key to better ageing lies in understanding the decline of our stem cells. For example, throughout our lives, haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) divide to give rise to new blood cells, but their function deteriorates as we age, leaving us more prone to diseases such as leukaemia. New research using mouse HSCs has identified a reason why: as they get older, the blood-forming stem cells replicate less efficiently, accumulating mutations in their DNA. Green fluorescence highlights evidence of DNA damage in the old HSCs pictured. The underlying cause is a deficiency in MCM helicase, a protein complex crucial to effective DNA replication. Genes encoding helicase proteins are less active in older HSCs. Finding a way to fix this problem would be a promising lead for future regenerative therapies to follow.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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