Stem cell activity falters with age. This is a feature of all of the stem cell populations studied to date, though whether this is the result of declining cell count or increasing quiescence varies by tissue type. Stem cells are responsible for providing a supply of daughter somatic cells to replenish losses and maintain tissue function. Their progressive failure to do so is one of the important contributing causes of aging.
Why do stem cells undergo this decline? Intrinsic damage to the stem cells themselves is certainly a factor, but in many populations it isn’t as important as changes in the signaling environment that take place in reaction to rising levels of molecular damage throughout a tissue. That said, in the research here, improved lysosomal activity is demonstrated to improve neural stem cell function. This implies that improved autophagy, increased removal of wastes and damaged components, is the cause of restored function. Autophagy declines with age, and there have been other examples in which enabling greater lysosomal function restores loss of organ function – such as in the liver, by adding more receptors essential to lyosomal activity.
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