Stem Cells – Their Importance To Health & How To Promote Their Function

Stem cells are amazing and are considered the body’s foundation cells, which can regenerate and form daughter cells (self-renewal). They can also generate other cells that have special functions in the body (differentiation).

  • Self-renewal is a process where stem cells divide to produce more stem cells developing a collection of stem cells for a lifetime. 
  • Differentiation occurs when stem cells become specialized and then perform  essential functions related to a particular location in the body. For example, these  special cells would operate in the bones, the heart muscle, the brain, blood and other locations. 

Stem cells can also replace specialized cells that have been damaged. Stem cells can actually become cells for regeneration and to help repair body system tissue that has been diseased. 

Why are stem cells of interest to scientists?

Researchers evaluate stem cells located in different body systems to gain a better perspective on health conditions and how they occur. This helps to prevent a health condition from occurring.

What are ways to promote stem cell function?

Eating a healthy diet is believed to promote stem cell function. It is believed that a calorie restricted diet may have an impact on maintaining healthy tissues in humans (Mihaylova MM et al, 2014). Stem cells are a foundation for tissue homeostasis (balance), which influence the makeup of tissues by the process of self-renewal and differentiation (Mihaylova MM et al, 2014). Reducing calories in the diet may have a major influence on stem cells. 

Research shows that restricting calories helps to extend lifespan and helps to prevent disease. An animal study was performed and demonstrated that restricting calories improved the function of tissue-specific stem cells (Cerletti M et al, 2012). 

Cutting back calories in the animal’s diet, significantly promoted the availability and the activity of stem cells in young and older animals. In addition, it promoted greater amounts of mitochondria and powerfully affected metabolic longevity regulators.

Are there nutrients that can increase stem cell renewal?

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a natural compound found in a variety of plants such as the grapevine, blueberry, cranberry and eucalyptus plants. Resveratrol has been shown to have numerous health benefits and has an effect on stem cells. 

A laboratory study was performed looking at resveratrol’s effect on human mesenchymal stem cells (Peltz L et al, 2012).

  • Mesenchymal stem cells are located in bone marrow and are essential to manufacturing and repairing cartilage, bone and fat in bone marrow. They are well known stem cells that are used frequently in research and for cell and gene therapy since they have the capacity for self-renewal (Attari F et al, 2015).

To gain better understanding, the study looked at the effect of resveratrol on these stem cells short term, in less than 2 weeks versus long term, from 4 to 10 weeks. 

Exposure of the cells to resveratrol was done at different concentrations. The objective was to see if resveratrol could increase the cell’s ability to self-renew and differentiate. The results showed that the effects were dose dependent. The proper dosing increased self-renewal by lowering the cell senescence rate and possibly by multiplying the cell production rate. Too high of the concentration caused an inhibitory effect. 

  • Senescence is the breakdown of cells that causes physical and characteristic changes that can lead to cell death. 

In addition, the study showed that resveratrol helped to control gene expression, which was associated with its effect on cell senescence and also longevity. 

Curcumin

Another nutrient from turmeric is curcumin which has also been shown to have a positive effect on bone marrow stem cells (Attari F et al, 2015).. After cells were treated with curcumin, the bone marrow stem cell survival rate increased. Although the result on survival and proliferation depended on the concentration of curcumin.

In summary, stem cells have a major impact on our health. They either go through a process of self-renewal or differentiation. Stem cells are influenced by diet and also nutrients such as resveratrol and curcumin.