It's a real bummer when you start getting older and your intestinal stem cell's functionality diminishes, right? Intestinal stem cells are important for helping us process and digest food, and as we get older they tend to be less effective. That's why our bodies tend to hold weight more easily the older we get, so we need those little guys healthy and happy and working at their optimal level.
Well I've got good news for all you gut-science fans; a study reviewed in Cell Stem Cell found that the stem cells in older mice switched from burning carbohydrates to burning fat after day of fasting. Once they changed to burning fat, the cell's functionality improved dramatically. For you science types, here's the abstract from the site:
Diet has a profound effect on tissue regeneration in diverse organisms, and low caloric states such as intermittent fasting have beneficial effects on organismal health and age-associated loss of tissue function. The role of adult stem and progenitor cells in responding to short-term fasting and whether such responses improve regeneration are not well studied. Here we show that a 24 hr fast augments intestinal stem cell (ISC) function in young and aged mice by inducing a fatty acid oxidation (FAO) program and that pharmacological activation of this program mimics many effects of fasting. Acute genetic disruption of Cpt1a, the rate-limiting enzyme in FAO, abrogates ISC-enhancing effects of fasting, but long-term Cpt1a deletion decreases ISC numbers and function, implicating a role for FAO in ISC maintenance. These findings highlight a role for FAO in mediating pro-regenerative effects of fasting in intestinal biology, and they may represent a viable strategy for enhancing intestinal regeneration.
“Intestinal stem cells are the workhorses of the intestine that give rise to more stem cells and to all of the various differentiated cell types of the intestine. Notably, during aging, intestinal stem function declines, which impairs the ability of the intestine to repair itself after damage,” senior author professor Omer Yilmaz, from MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, said in a statement. “In this line of investigation, we focused on understanding how a 24-hour fast enhances the function of young and old intestinal stem cells.”
The team behind this discovery are now looking into whether or not other organs have similar reactions to fasting. This could mean fantastic breakthroughs in organ health and tissue longevity!
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