~ Aging Stem Cells Linked to Leukemia in Elderly

HealthDay, 06-22-05

TUESDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- Aging stem cells may be behind an increased risk of infection and leukemia in older people, according to a Stanford University School of Medicine study.

The report appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Stanford team found that in older mice, bone marrow stem cells that create new blood cells produce fewer immune cells. That means the bodies of older mice are less able to fight infection.

As well as producing fewer immune cells, the aging blood-forming stem cells use genes known to be involved in leukemia -- cancers that affect blood cells. This may be one reason why older people have an increased risk of developing certain kinds of leukemia, the study authors said.

The findings provide more evidence that aging stem cells or stem cells responding to conditions in an aging body may be the source of a number of age-related health problems.

"Aging results in a diminished capacity of the body to maintain tissue and organ function. Since we know the cells mediating this maintenance are stem cells, it doesn't take a great leap of faith to think that stem cells are at the heart of that failure," study co-author and postdoctoral scholar Derrick Rossi said in a prepared statement.

The researchers said this finding could lead to ways to improve immune function or prevent leukemia in older people.

More information

The Alliance for Aging Research has more about aging.

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