We have stem cells in all our tissues. Stem cells, cells with the capacity to differentiate into a variety of other cells and replicate, are necessary in order to repair tissue as it suffers daily damage. Without stem cells, tissue repair in our bodies wouldn’t be possible, and we wouldn’t be able to stay alive for long.
A decline in the number of stem cells and their ability to function and repair tissues is a hallmark sign of aging. The ability to live longer may rest in the ability of our stem cells to repair our tissues. Researchers have known for a while that the aging of stem cells differs between males and females, at least in animal models. The same may be true for humans. New research from Stanford University looked at living supercentenarians, people who have celebrated at least 110 birthdays, and found that 51 out of 53 known supercentenarians are females. The researchers submitted that there are key differences between males and females in how our regenerative capacity decline as we age, and that sex hormones may be the reason for that difference. Researchers concluded that “No other demographic factor come remotely close to sex in predicting the likelihood of achieving such advanced age.”
It is well known that women tend to live longer than men. The same is true for most mammals. Studies in mice have shown that estrogen directly affects stem cell population in females, increasing the number of blood cells and enhancing the regenerative capacity of brain stem cells. When given to male mice, estrogen increases their lifespan. It seems that estrogen (the female sex hormone) may protect and maintain stem cells better than testosterone (the male sex hormone). This may make female bodies better at healing themselves, and may explain why females tend to live longer.
This is a very interesting hypothesis; and a possible link between estrogen, testosterone and the health of our stem cells could have important implications in designing new stem cell based treatments in the future.
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