Posts Tagged ‘Ageing’

When all your email is only spam

January 27, 2018

Looking at some old class photographs I realised that about 15% of my school class has passed away.


 

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UK MPs vote for the duty to suffer and reject the right to die

September 12, 2015

We live longer but – as a recent study suggested – have longer periods of disabling conditions at the end of life. It was suggested that – on average – our increase in longevity meant that we also had an increasing period of “vegetable-like living” and that this period was of the order of 10 years. Life expectancy is increasing faster than “healthy life expectancy”.

Science Daily: Global life expectancy at birth for both sexes rose by 6.2 years (from 65.3 in 1990 to 71.5 in 2013), while healthy life expectancy, or HALE, at birth rose by 5.4 years (from 56.9 in 1990 to 62.3 in 2013).

That is 9.2 years of “unhealthy life” in a total of 71.5 years (12%). It would seem that each increase in life expectancy consists of about 90% of that increase being “healthy”.

But UK MPs believe the elderly have a duty to suffer. Virtually every organised religion lobbied against the bill to allow assisted dying and the bill was duly quashed yesterday. Yet about 80% of the UK population support such a bill. Perhaps this bill did not have enough safeguards but that was not the reason the bill was rejected. The real reason, I think, is the puritanical view of suffering being a duty – especially when it is the suffering of others.

There is no parliament in the world where the over-70s are not grossly under-represented. There is something illogical when medical assistance is available to terminate a foetus – with no consent by the foetus – but medical assistance is denied to people who are suffering and who, not merely consent, but wish to terminate their suffering.

Perhaps it is the views of the sufferers which should come into play?

BBC: 

MPs have rejected plans for a right to die in England and Wales in their first vote on the issue in almost 20 years.

In a free vote in the Commons, 118 MPs were in favour and 330 against plans to allow some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision.

In a passionate debate, some argued the plans allowed a “dignified and peaceful death” while others said they were “totally unacceptable”.

Pro-assisted dying campaigners said the result showed MPs were out of touch.

Under the proposals, people with fewer than six months to live could have been prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, which they had to be able to take themselves. Two doctors and a High Court judge would have needed to approve each case.

Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, welcomed the rejection of the legislation, saying the current law existed to protect those who were sick, elderly, depressed or disabled.

He said: “It protects those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion, it acts as a powerful deterrent to would-be abusers and does not need changing.”

But Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said it was an “outrage” that MPs had gone against the views of the majority of the public who supported the bill.

But this will come. Currently life expectancy increases by about 2 -3 months  every year. By 2100 most people will be living to over 100 years. More than half will not suffer significant degradation for any lengthy periods at the end of their lives. But up to half will – unless they have the option to choose.

 

How Syrian refugees are helping to solve a German conundrum

September 8, 2015

Germany is now perceived as the land of “sanctuary” in Europe, which was once a position occupied by the UK for many years. Certainly after the xenophobia exhibited by the Hungarian government (but not by all Hungarians) and the reluctance of some other European governments to accept refugees (Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia, Denmark …..), Angela Merkel has won many brownie points by exhibiting a generosity not visible from other countries. In fact the response means that Germany now occupies the moral high ground. By announcing that they can take up to 500,000 per year for several years, they make other EU countries look like “hardhearted cheapskates”. The UK response, with 20,000 in 5 years makes Ebeneezer Scrooge look generous.  Even the US is shown up by German actions as just one of the group of countries who speak highly about the value of compassion but fail to walk the talk.

The Guardian:

Germany could take 500,000 refugees each year for “several years”, the country’s vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, has said, as fresh clashes broke out overnight between police and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos and thousands of people gathered amid chaotic scenes on the Greek border with Macedonia.

“I believe we could surely deal with something in the order of half a million for several years,” he told ZDF public television. “I have no doubt about that, maybe more.” Germany expects to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four times the total for 2014.

But this generosity is not entirely due to altruism.

In March this year I posted about a study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung which pointed out how Germany needed to have an immigration level of 500,000 per year till 2050 to overcome labour shortages and compensate for an ageing population. It pointed out that “efforts to attract skilled workers from non-EU countries should be intensified.”

The report also pointed out that it would be difficult to maintain the level of skilled immigration needed. It would seem that for Germany to be fairly generous with its approach to Syrian refugees is not just altruism but may well be in Germany’s self-interest. The Syrians generally have a much higher level of education and skills than is evident from refugees originating from Africa and those that stay in Germany may well be able to enter the productive work force much faster.

The Syrian refugees help solve a conundrum that was faced by Germany.

Zuwanderungsbedarf aus Drittstaaten in Deutschland bis 2050

Press Release: Without immigrants, the potential labor force would sink from approximately 45 million today to less than 29 million by 2050 – a decline of 36 percent. This gap cannot be closed without immigration. Even if women were to be employed at the same rate as men, and the retirement age was increased to 70 in 2035, the number of potential workers in the country would rise by only about 4.4 million.

In 2013, a total of 429,000 more people came to Germany than left the country. Last year, the net total was 470,000, the Federal Statistical Office reports. According to the study, net immigration at this level would be sufficient for at least the next 10 years to keep the country’s potential labor force at a constant level. From that time onward, however, the need for immigrants will grow, because the baby-boomer generation will be entering retirement. One out of two of today’s skilled workers with professional training will have left the working world by 2030. …

….. the current high levels of immigration from EU countries (2013: around 300,000) will soon decline significantly, as demographic change is shrinking populations across the European Union, and because incentives to emigrate in crisis-stricken countries will decline with economic recovery. The experts forecast an annual average of just 70,000 immigrants or fewer from EU counties by 2050. For this reason, efforts to attract skilled workers from non-EU countries should be intensified. …

But Angela Merkel is implementing today actions that will be needed by nearly all European countries suffering from a declining fertility and a rapidly ageing population. It is no accident that Germany is probably best placed in Europe to have a chance of maintaining the critical ratio of its working population to its supported population (under 15s and over 65s) beyond 2050.

I begin to see Angela Merkel as being much more long-sighted and much more of a visionary than I have ever given her credit for.

Germany needs 500,000+ immigrants every year till 2050

March 27, 2015

A new study has just been published by the Bertelsmann Stiftung:

Zuwanderungsbedarf aus Drittstaaten in Deutschland bis 2050

Press Release: Without immigrants, the potential labor force would sink from approximately 45 million today to less than 29 million by 2050 – a decline of 36 percent. This gap cannot be closed without immigration. Even if women were to be employed at the same rate as men, and the retirement age was increased to 70 in 2035, the number of potential workers in the country would rise by only about 4.4 million.

In 2013, a total of 429,000 more people came to Germany than left the country. Last year, the net total was 470,000, the Federal Statistical Office reports. According to the study, net immigration at this level would be sufficient for at least the next 10 years to keep the country’s potential labor force at a constant level. From that time onward, however, the need for immigrants will grow, because the baby-boomer generation will be entering retirement. One out of two of today’s skilled workers with professional training will have left the working world by 2030. …

….. the current high levels of immigration from EU countries (2013: around 300,000) will soon decline significantly, as demographic change is shrinking populations across the European Union, and because incentives to emigrate in crisis-stricken countries will decline with economic recovery. The experts forecast an annual average of just 70,000 immigrants or fewer from EU counties by 2050. For this reason, efforts to attract skilled workers from non-EU countries should be intensified. …

German working population  development

German working population development – Bertelsmann Stiftung

This is not a picture that is unique to Germany in Europe. Moreover just keeping the working population constant does not allow for the additional numbers who are ageing and whose “pensions” whether from the Sate of from private sources must be supported by a corresponding growth in the resource funds.

All politicians are well aware of the demographic inevitabilities in Europe. But they have not yet managed to convince all their constituencies that “old Europe” has to renew and reinvent itself. A “new Europe” cannot hark back to the days of the Crusades. Few, if any, politicians in today’s Europe and on the right of the divide, have had the courage to point out that immigration from outside the EU is necessary and that these immigrants must be speedily integrated. Few of the politicians on the left of the divide have either had the courage to point out that a multiethnic society still requires a single over-riding culture (set of values) which may then have as many subordinate cultures as desired. Few have had the courage to point out that “multiculturalism” does not allow a single society to be sustained. If these politicians truly want to take care of their children’s children they will have to come to terms with the reality of the cold hand of demographics. The only alternative to immigration – but hardly viable – is a Europe-wide “baby production” policy which would have to discourage abortions and maximise incentives for having children. Fertility clinics and multiple births could always be heavily subsidised.

But I can’t help feeling that EU immigration policy cannot be just based on “asylum seekers”. Any such policy must be built on demographic realities and must be based on needed skills (and on the provision of training in the needed skills) and not just on “asylum seekers” and the random set of skills that that represents.

EU 2009 Ageing Report:

…. low birth rates, rising life expectancy and continuing inflow of migrants can be expected to result in an almost unchanged, but much older, total EU population by 2060, meaning that the EU would move from having four working-age people (aged 15-64) for every person aged over 65 to a ratio of only two to one. The largest decrease is expected to occur during the period 2015-35 when the baby-boom cohorts will be entering retirement. …….

The fiscal impact of ageing is therefore projected to be substantial in almost all Member States, becoming apparent already over the course of the next decade. Overall, on the basis of current policies, age-related public expenditure is projected to increase on average by about 4¾ percentage points of GDP by 2060 in the EU and by more than 5 percentage points in the euro area – especially through pension, healthcare and long-term care spending.

Age discrimination to be tested in Swedish court

March 16, 2015

Age discrimination is endemic in Sweden – that is discrimination on the basis of just age and not because of some attribute or lack of competence. Though it is illegal it is an everyday occurrence. To be labelled a “pensioner” in Sweden is often as an excuse for exclusion and a not so subtle form of insult.

The elderly are noticeably absent in parliament where they are grossly underrepresented. This is, in part, due to the fact that all the political parties are inherently prejudiced against age and have an obsession about youth. It shows up with the party leaders and their entourages as well, where youth – and being seen to be young – is of primary importance. Incompetence and inexperience are tolerated (even encouraged) to satisfy the youth fetish. Competence and experience do not balance the perceived disadvantages of age. The theory being, I suppose, that this attracts young, first time voters. I perceive the incidences of incompetence in government and in political life as increasing. I would go so far as to say that there has been a “dumbing-down” of politics. The proportion of the elderly among the electorate is growing sharply. But so far their electoral strength has not manifested itself in politics or in parliament.

A public transport company, Keolis, has introduced a blanket rule forbidding those over 70 years old from being bus or taxi drivers. This is a ban based entirely on age and not on competence. The Discrimination Ombudsman is taking this to court to see if such a blanket age-based ban is legal.

Swedish radioThe Discrimination Ombudsman has taken the position that the public transport company Keolis is discriminating illegally against the elderly with their ban on people aged 70 or over from driving buses and taxis. For the first time, such a general upper age limit will now be tested in the Labour Court.

Marie Nordström who is handling the case within the office of the Discrimination Ombudsman hopes that this will send a clear signal to employers. “We must become aware of that age itself actually constitutes grounds for discrimination, and that we should not discriminate against older people in employment. We must make effective use of older people’s knowledge and experience to a greater extent than we do today”.

…… Cecilia Jerneheim, Human Resources Manager at Keolis, says that the age limit is not about discrimination, but about road safety. “It is known that with increasing age, hearing, vision and response time are impaired and therefore we have chosen the age of 70. We need to put a limit somewhere and we have chosen 70” says Cecilia Jerneheim.

But whatever the labour court says the attitude of general condescension towards, and the political exclusion of, the elderly will continue in Swedish society for some time yet.

Government policies shifting to encourage increase of fertility

March 15, 2015

Increasingly countries must now resort to long term and official policies to try and increase their fertility rates. In Japan government policy is all about providing incentives for couples to have more children. In Iran government policy is moving from exhortation to “go forth and multiply” to now the banning of vasectomies and discouraging contraception and abortion. Of course the Iranian measures are drawing much criticism from groups which believe that this is making women into baby-factories! European countries have been addressing this by their immigration policies even if they rarely admit that declining fertility is a problem. I note that addressing the ageing problem is politically acceptable but that admitting a fertility problem is not. Equally, promoting immigration as the combined solution for both fertility and ageing is not electorally attractive. But the reality is that fertility and ageing as potential problems are lowest in those European countries which have permitted significant immigration (UK, Germany, France, Sweden ….).  Over the next 20 years an increasing number of countries globally will have to include policies explicitly to address ageing and the decline in fertility. In European countries where the reaction to immigration is strong, there will inevitably be a move towards more restrictive abortion regulations since attempts to be restrictive on contraception would be futile. It will not have escaped the notice of demographers and policy planners that in Europe there are about 25 abortions for every 100 live births. I can envisage the situation where having a child (and especially a second child) is of such value to a society that it is prioritised over being free to work. A steady increase of incentives in the form of child benefits and tax breaks can be expected.

In Japan, of course the population implosion problem is real and is already under way. The fertility rate is currently at 1.29 (replenishment 2.1) and not only is population declining but the ageing problem is gathering pace. By 2050 population will drop by about 30 million from 127 million today to about 97 million. At the same time the proportion of the population over 65 will increase from about 25% today to about 40%. The impact on the critical ratio of “working population” to “supported population” is even more severe. And so the Japanese government is introducing further policy measures.

japan fertility berlin institut

japan fertility berlin institut

Japan’s fertility rate for decades has continued to decline. The sharp fall in 1966 is attributed to a superstition according to which women born in the year of the Fire Horse will bring grief upon their future husbands (Source: NIPSSR 2006; Schoppa 2008).

BBC: … Local authorities will get government support if they organise speed-dating or other forms of matchmaking, according to a draft policy outlining measures to increase the number of people having children…… 

The government wants to do more than just encourage those early days of romance, though. The draft includes plans to improve access to free nursery care, and for counselling centres to be set up across the country for people undergoing fertility treatment. There’s also a target to boost the number of fathers taking paternity leave immediately after their baby is born to 80% by the year 2020. …

Iran has been aware of their coming fertility problem since the late 1980s but has relied so far on exhortation to try and increase fertility. Last year the Ayatollah Khamenei issued a 14 point plan to improve fertility rate.

Iran has seen its fertility rate reduce from close to 7 children per woman in 1960 to around an implosion level of 1.8 per woman  at the current time. For a stable population the replenishment rate required is 2.1 children per woman. Through the 1980’s Iran ran a free contraception program and the birth rate plummeted. So much so that Iran is facing a coming crisis of population implosion.

The Ayatollah Khamenei has taken notice and issued a 14 point plan to increase the fertility rate.

Iran – Israel total fertility rate Google public data

But now legislation is being introduced and two new bills will ban voluntary vasectomies and be much more restrictive on contraception and abortion. Human rights and lobby groups such as Amnesty are opposing the legislation on the grounds that they would  “entrench discriminatory practices and expose women to health risks”.

I am not so sure that the Iranian legislation is coercive in itself. I think it  is attempting to make having a baby the default rather than not having a baby. Both Japan and Iran have very little immigration which can help their numbers though there are signs that Japanese politicians are  trying to pave the way for some future immigration.

But over the next few decades, an increasing number of countries will have to come to grips with population implosions and ageing.

 

Wilders is now getting up their noses

March 24, 2014

When populism goes over the top.

Wilders hasn’t said exactly how he is intending to reduce the Moroccans in the Netherlands but it is unlikely to be very pleasant for them.

Photograph: Marcel Antonisse/AFP/Getty Images

Geert Wilders Photograph: Marcel Antonisse/AFP/Getty Images

(Reuters)Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders has lost his top position in opinion polls after making anti-Moroccan comments that unleashed a public backlash and prompted several high-profile resignations from his party. ….. 

Wilders has been hit by a series of resignations after leading a chant against Moroccan immigrants in The Hague on Wednesday. Among those who quit was the head of the PVV in the European Parliament, Laurence Stassen.

The next big test for the party will come at European Parliament elections in May. The PVV slipped five seats from a week ago to 22 and would come in third place behind the Socialist Party and the right-of-center Democrats 66, the poll showed. The PVV won 15 seats in the Dutch parliament in the 2012 election.

Wilders led the chant at a rally after municipal elections. He asked supporters in The Hague: “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?”

“Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!”, the crowd chanted. Wilders responded: “We’ll take care of that.”

The comments drew widespread condemnation in the Netherlands and abroad. Thousands of people filed complaints of discrimination with Dutch prosecutors, while several PVV members have quit from the national assembly and city councils.

On Saturday, Wilders said he wasn’t sorry, had not violated anti-discrimination laws and would not apologize to anyone.

While Wilders also lost some support among his electorate, 85 percent of people who voted for him said they still backed him as leader of the Party for Freedom.

The fertility rate in the rapidly aging Netherlands is at crisis levels. From around 4.45 per woman in 1900. and 3.2 in 1960, it is now at about 1.68 per woman in 2013. The post-war baby boomers are now entering the ranks of the retired and will be adding to the proportion of the elderly for the next 25 years. Without bolstering the working population by immigration, the care of the elderly at current levels would not be sustainable.

So if Wilders plans to reduce immigration, he better plan to reduce the number of the aged as well.

Netherlands fertility rate (World Bank data)

Netherlands fertility rate (World Bank data)

Demographics of the Nertherlands: The Dutch population is ageing. Furthermore, life expectancy has increased because of developments in medicine, and in addition to this, the Netherlands has seen increasing immigration. Despite these developments combined with the population boom after the Second World War, the low birth rate has caused extremely low population growth: 2005 saw the lowest absolute population growth since 1900. …

According to Eurostat, in 2010 there were 1.8 million foreign-born residents in the Netherlands, corresponding to 11.1% of the total population. Of these, 1.4 million (8.5%) were born outside the EU and 0.428 million (2.6%) were born in another EU Member State.

As the result of immigration, the Netherlands has a sizeable minority of non-indigenous peoples. There is also considerable emigration. In 2005 some 121,000 people left the country, while 94,000 entered it. Out of a total of 101,150 people immigrating to Netherlands in 2006, 66,658 were from Europe, Oceania, the Americas or Japan, and 34,492 were from other (mostly developing) countries. Out of a total of 132,470 emigrants, 94,834 were going to Europe, Oceania, the Americas or Japan and 37,636 to other countries.

The price of longevity is degradation of the elderly

October 7, 2012

The care of the elderly passing from family members to institutions is one of the apparently irreversible  developments in all cultures today. It is not just a phenomenon of “Western” civilization but is a trend across the globe. As “joint families” have given way to nuclear families and as couples have both gone out “to work” and as the elderly desire greater independence and as people live longer, the responsibility for the care of the elderly has passed to institutions from ever-more burdened children or relations.

But a model for institutional care – whether by private players or the State – which works without the degradation of the elderly has yet to be found. I suppose the fundamental reasons are that

  1. to die quietly and with some dignity and with as little discomfort as possible is only of value to the dying,
  2. those who are “in care” have limited opportunities to make themselves heard, let alone to complain,
  3. those “in care” are no longer worth very much to the society they live in and are only seen as a cost,
  4. even for the relatives and children of those in institutional care, the elderly are seen primarily as “duties”  and they would rather not complain if the only solution is a responsibility devolving upon themselves, and
  5. for institutions providing care there is always a  financial benefit to not providing care and they get no “extra bonus” when they do provide care.

(more…)

Prematurely induced ageing reversed in mice

November 29, 2010

It is not quite the reversal of the normal ageing process but fascinating nevertheless. Mice deprived of telomerase suffered premature ageing and the reintroduction of the enzyme reversed it. But mice lacking telomerase are not necessarily a valid stand-in for the normal ageing process. Increasing the level of telomerase in humans could potentially encourage the growth of tumours.

A new paper in Nature:

Telomerase reactivation reverses tissue degeneration in aged telomerase-deficient mice

Nature advance online publication 28 November 2010 | doi:10.1038/nature09603; Received 8 May 2010; Accepted 26 October 2010; Published online 28 November 2010

Mariela Jaskelioff, Florian L. Muller, Ji-Hye Paik, Emily Thomas, Shan Jiang, Andrew C. Adams, Ergun Sahin, Maria Kost-Alimova, Alexei Protopopov, Juan Cadiñanos, James W. Horner, Eleftheria Maratos-Flier & Ronald A. DePinho

Nature News:

telomeres

Telomeres: Peter Lansdorp/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Premature ageing can be reversed by reactivating an enzyme that protects the tips of chromosomes, a study in mice suggests.

Mice engineered to lack the enzyme, called telomerase, become prematurely decrepit. But they bounced back to health when the enzyme was replaced. The finding, published online today in Nature, hints that some disorders characterized by early ageing could be treated by boosting telomerase activity.

It also offers the possibility that normal human ageing could be slowed by reawakening the enzyme in cells where it has stopped working, says Ronald DePinho, a cancer geneticist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who led the new study. “This has implications for thinking about telomerase as a serious anti-ageing intervention.”

After its discovery in the 1980s, telomerase gained a reputation as a fountain of youth. Chromosomes have caps of repetitive DNA called telomeres at their ends. Every time cells divide, their telomeres shorten, which eventually prompts them to stop dividing and die. Telomerase prevents this decline in some kinds of cells, including stem cells, by lengthening telomeres, and the hope was that activating the enzyme could slow cellular ageing.

Two decades on, researchers are realizing that telomerase’s role in ageing is far more nuanced than first thought. Some studies have uncovered an association between short telomeres and early death, whereas others have failed to back up this link. People with rare diseases characterized by shortened telomeres or telomerase mutations seem to age prematurely, although some tissues are more affected than others.

When mice are engineered to lack telomerase completely, their telomeres progressively shorten over several generations. These animals age much faster than normal mice — they are barely fertile and suffer from age-related conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes and neurodegeneration. They also die young. “If you look at all those data together, you walk away with the idea that the loss of telomerase could be a very important instigator of the ageing process,” says DePinho.

To find out if these dramatic effects are reversible, DePinho’s team engineered mice such that the inactivated telomerase could be switched back on by feeding the mice a chemical called 4-OHT. The researchers allowed the mice to grow to adulthood without the enzyme, then reactivated it for a month. They assessed the health of the mice another month later.

Shrivelled testes grew back to normal and the animals regained their fertility. Other organs, such as the spleen, liver and intestines, recuperated from their degenerated state. The one-month pulse of telomerase also reversed effects of ageing in the brain. Mice with restored telomerase activity had noticeably larger brains than animals still lacking the enzyme, and neural progenitor cells, which produce new neurons and supporting brain cells, started working again.

The downside is that telomerase is often mutated in human cancers, and seems to help existing tumours grow faster. “Telomere rejuvenation is potentially very dangerous unless you make sure that it does not stimulate cancer,” says David Harrison, who researches ageing at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Harrison also questions whether mice lacking telomerase are a good model for human ageing. “They are not studying normal ageing, but ageing in mice made grossly abnormal,” he says.

Stem Cells turn injured rodents into Mighty Mice

November 11, 2010

The implications for the possible treatment of wasted muscles – and perhaps even for aged, wasted muscles – is immense.

(Reuters) – Injecting stem cells into injured mice made their muscles grow back twice as big in a matter of days, creating mighty mice with bulky muscles that stayed big and strong for the rest of their lives, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

Mighty Mouse

If the same applies to humans, the findings could lead to new treatments for diseases that cause muscles to deteriorate, such as muscular dystrophy.

It may even help people resist the gradual erosion of muscle strength that comes with age, Bradley Olwin, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and colleagues reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. “This was a very exciting and unexpected result,” Olwin, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

“We found that the transplanted stem cells are permanently altered and reduce the aging of the transplanted muscle, maintaining strength and mass.” Olwin’s team experimented on young mice with leg injuries, injecting them with muscle stem cells taken from young donor mice. Stem cells are unique in that they can constantly renew themselves, and form the basis of other specialized cells. These cells not only repaired the injury, but they caused the treated muscle to increase in size by 170 percent. Olwin’s team had thought the changes would be temporary, but they lasted through the lifetime of the mice, which was about two years.

“When the muscles were examined two years later, we found the procedure permanently changed the transplanted cells, making them resistant to the aging process in the muscle,” Olwin said in a statement.

Olwin and colleagues said when they injected the cells into a healthy leg, they did not get the same effect, suggesting there is something important about injecting the cells into an injured muscle that triggers growth.

“The environment that the stem cells are injected into is very important, because when it tells the cells there is an injury, they respond in a unique way,” he said.

The team hopes eventually to find drugs or combinations of drugs that mimic the behavior of transplanted cells,” Olwin said. The findings are encouraging for human research, but Olwin cautions that putting stem cells from young mice into other young mice is not the same thing as making old muscles young again.

And the study is in mice, not people.

The paper is

Prevention of Muscle Aging by Myofiber-Associated Satellite Cell Transplantation by John K. Hall, Glen B. Banks, Jeffrey S. Chamberlain and Bradley B. Olwin. Sci Transl Med 10 November 2010: Vol. 2, Issue 57, p. 57ra83
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001081

ABSTRACT

Skeletal muscle is dynamic, adapting to environmental needs, continuously maintained, and capable of extensive regeneration. These hallmarks diminish with age, resulting in a loss of muscle mass, reduced regenerative capacity, and decreased functionality. Although the mechanisms responsible for this decline are unclear, complex changes within the local and systemic environment that lead to a reduction in regenerative capacity of skeletal muscle stem cells, termed satellite cells, are believed to be responsible. We demonstrate that engraftment of myofiber-associated satellite cells, coupled with an induced muscle injury, markedly alters the environment of young adult host muscle, eliciting a near-lifelong enhancement in muscle mass, stem cell number, and force generation. The abrogation of age-related atrophy appears to arise from an increased regenerative capacity of the donor stem cells, which expand to occupy both myonuclei in myofibers and the satellite cell niche. Further, these cells have extensive self-renewal capabilities, as demonstrated by serial transplantation. These near-lifelong, physiological changes suggest an approach for the amelioration of muscle atrophy and diminished function that arise with aging through myofiber-associated satellite cell transplantation.


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