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Death is a scary thing, and nobody really wants to deal with the fact that one day we all kick the bucket. We do everything to stop or hide the aging process from popping vitamins to using expensive cream to try to banish our wrinkles. Many folks are holding out hope that one day science will crack the code to long lives and figure out how to make us all immortal. While scientists haven't quite done that, they may have figured out what makes some folks live for incredible amounts of time.
According to Fox News , researchers studied the blood of a 115 year old woman and think they may know what helped her live so long. Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper was born in 1890 and lived disease free and with a sharp mind until her passing in 2005. It's incredibly unusual for anyone to be malady free right up to their death. She donated her body to science, which is good news for the rest of us.
The research done on her remains was published in Genome Research, and detailed findings about what made van Andel-Schipper's blood special. Scientists discovered that leading up to her death, all of her white blood cells originated from just two stem cells . This means that the vast majority of blood stem cells she was born with back in the 1800s had died and were no longer replicating. Her white blood cells also had very short telomeres, or protective caps, showing their age. These findings support the theory that your lifespan is basically dictated by how long your stem cells can keep dividing, and unfortunately this division can't last forever.
Everyone is born with about 20,000 stem cells, and about 1,000 of these are responsible for replenishing your blood. Over time though, the telomeres that protect them during division fall apart or shrink up, leading to cell death. Scientists think that in the future, we could develop therapy using stem cells from earlier in our lives and injecting them at later times. The injected cells would increase the length of the protective caps and possibly extend your life, but it's unclear how much longer you would actually live.
This new research may not be an instant immortality discovery, but it's a step in the right direction. It's comforting to think that maybe by the time we're old, we might be able to enjoy a few more years with my family. The hope here is that they can find more ways to use stem cells in treating diseases, giving more people a shot at a healthy life. It'll still be awhile though, before modern science is ready to outsmart father time.