Why Stem Cells Are Unfair to Their Children

Dan Garisto in Nautilus:

StemDarcie Moore is an expert on cargo. Not the kind you’d find on a freight train, though—it’s the cargo you’d find in stem cells, the kind that can transform into the different types of cells your body needs in your brain, skin, hair follicles, and lots of other places. They’re especially critical when we’re developing at an early age, but adults have them, too. As stem cells grow and replicate, they can accumulate misfolded proteins and other gunk—“cargo”—that harms their function by, in Moore’s words, “exhausting” them. Nautilus caught up with Moore, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to talk about how she investigates stem cell exhaustion and how it contributes to the puzzle of aging.

What do stem cells have to do with aging?

The theory is that during aging, your stem cells begin to dysfunction. For example, you begin to lose the ability to make pigment in your hair with aging due to melanocyte stem cells becoming depleted. Some of the concepts that apply to stem cell aging have been initially studied quite a bit in yeast, including the work my lab does, and it’s only recently that this work has started to take off in mammalian systems.

Why study yeast aging?

Every time these unicellular organisms divide, they’re aging based on the number of cell divisions, and not necessarily on chronological age. Scientists researching yeast have found a barrier that limits the movement of proteins between the mother and their bud. We thought this might be really interesting to explore in neural stem cells of the brain, to see if replicative aging occurred there.

More here.