Want to Live Longer? Support Your Stem Cell and Blood Stem Cell Health

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by Nils Osmar. Updated April 19, 2022

I was reading an article in New Scientist about the aging process as it relates to blood stem cells. The article dealt with a woman who had lived to be 115, then died even though she was in apparently good health. Because she was so long lived and so healthy for most of her life, she bequeathed her body to science.

  • She was actually in great health, energetic, and mentally clear and sharp until shortly before her death. But something related to the aging process had nontheless killed her.
  • When studying her physiology post mortem, researchers found to their surprise that she had just two blood stem cells left in her body at the time of her death. These two cells had been doing the job of creating all of her white and red blood cells.
  • We start life with a large number of stem cells, including the ones that make red and white blood cells. That number declines as we age. If we have no way to replenish them, this may be a built-in mechanism keeping us from living very much past the age at which she died. (What appears to be an “aging program” may just be the body running short of stem cells.) (Or perhaps we’re programmed to run short.)
  • But what if we could replenish our supply of blood stem cells?

Could We Stockpile Blood Stem Cells?

The article ended with an interesting quote from Henne Holstege of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, who was head of the research team:

“Is there a limit to the number of stem cell divisions, and does that imply that there’s a limit to human life? Or can you get round that by replenishment with cells saved from earlier in your life?”

So “banking” blood stem cells may be a way of getting around this problem. (Other stem cells can be banked; why not blood stem cells?)

There may also be other ways we can get around this limit.

Taking GLA (Gamma linolenic Acid)

In looking for other studies related to blood stem cells, I found an interesting article entitled “Scientists Discover Ways of Making Old Blood New Again” by Debra Melani. Melani points out that in researching stem cells, scientists found an enzyme that loses function with age, “reducing healthy blood cell formation.”

They added GLA (gamma linolenic acid) to the lab animals’ diets, and found that doing so improved stem cell regeneration. The article quotes Angelo D’Alessandro, PhD.:

“.By switching mice to a diet rich in GLA, we could fix the phenotype. That is, we could make old mice look more like young mice in the capacity to generate new blood cells.”

Autophagy Supports Stem Cell Generation

Study: “Chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) sustains haematopoietic stem-cell function”

“The activation of mostly quiescent haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) is a prerequisite for life-long production of blood cells … our work suggests that CMA may be a promising therapeutic target for enhancing HSC function in conditions such as ageing or stem-cell transplantation….”

Foods that Support Stem Cells

According to this article, “Blueberry, green tea, and carnosine are able to aid in stem-cell regeneration in animals with neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, herbs such as ashwagandha, red sage, ginseng, coffee, theanine, lion’s mane mushroom, and curcumin were all found to have neurogenic effects.”

Supplements that support stem cells

I mentioned GLA above. Some other supplements also show promise:

  • Vitamin C helps increase the proliferation of bone marrow stem cells, and protects the integrity of healthy stem cells
  • Vitamin D3 reduces the aging of stem cells, make them healthier, and helps them differentiate
  • Vitamin K improves osteogenesis in plurapotent stem cells.
  • Curcumin has been found to help mesenchymal stem cells differentiate and function better.
  • According to one study, glucosamine and chondroitin improved the function of stem cells
  • Sea buckthorn oil and sea buckthorn powder have been found to promote stem cell differentiation.
  • Sulforaphane (available from supplements and from cruciferous vegetables) stimulates stem cell proliferation.

Things that harm stem cells

  • If you take antibiotics, consulting with your doctor about whether it would work to use one that doesn’t harm stem cells. There is evidence, for example, that quinolone antibiotics, including Cipro and Levaquin, damage stem cells.
  • Steroids, whether they are oral, topical, inhaled, or injected, show evidence of harming stem cells.
  • Consumption of alcohol and tobacco harm stem cells. From this a recent Guardian article: “Alcohol can cause irreversible genetic damage to the body’s reserve of stem cells, according to a study that helps explain the link between drinking and cancer…. The research, using genetically modified mice, provides the most compelling evidence to date that alcohol causes cancer by scrambling the DNA in cells, eventually leading to deadly mutations.”

What I’m Doing

The research is interesting, and points in some promising directions. I like the idea of “banking” blood stem cells when we’re young which can be returned to us later in life. (There are already banks for other types of stem cells.)

In the meantime, here’s what I’m doing, hoping that the effect will be in increase in stem cells and an improvement in stem cell health and differentiation:

  • I take a big scoop of sea buckthorn powder every morning along with my NAD boosters.
  • I take vitamin D3 and vitamin K supplements (and eat lots of fermented foods)
  • I take one gram of liposomal vitamin C a day. (I’m currently taking Mercola’s product.)
  • I initially cut down on drinking alcohol, then stopped drinking it entirely.
  • I do frequent fasting and time restricted eating
  • I do occasional day long fasts (24 to 36 hours)
  • I do occasional prolonged fasts or fasting mimicking diets
  • I take a GLA (borage oil) supplement (the one I like best is made by Jarrow). I don’t use many PUFAs but have added GLA in the form of borage oil to my diet.
  • I eat lots of cruciferous vegetables.
  • I take sulforaphane supplements (two brands I’ve had good result from are Avmacoll and DoNotAge).
  • For my full list of supplements, see the link below:

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