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Blood from world's oldest woman suggests life limit

Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

It sounds kind of bizarre, but researchers say blood from one of the world's oldest women gives new clues about a human's "life limit."

Before her death in 2005, Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper of the Netherlands was the oldest woman alive. She lived to be 115 and three months old.

Surprisingly though, CNN reports that when she died, her brain was still in good shape - no sign of Alzheimer's or other diseases typically associated with old age.

So what led to her death? Researchers now say it might have to do with dying stem cells.

Scientists at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam say at the time of van Andel-Schipper's death, she had just two blood stem cells.

Let us put that in context for you. Blood stem cells are what your body uses to replenish your blood. Humans are typically born with around 20,000 of these cells, and on average about 1,000 work to keep your bloodstream pumping.

But this study suggests over time our stem cells weaken and die out, which, as a writer for New Scientist points out, might actually limit the ability of your stem cells to replenish your tissues.

"Once the stem cells reach a state of exhaustion that imposes a limit on their own lifespan, they themselves gradually die out and steadily diminish the body's capacity to keep regenerating vital tissues and cells, such as blood."

Although it's not known for sure whether van Andel-Schipper died because of this exhaustion, this study does reveal her white blood cells were mutated, leading scientists to wonder if some genetic mutations are actually harmless.

And as the International Business Times says, it could mean: "Genetic mutations may hold the key to a long life."

The researchers, whose findings were published in the journal Genome Research, say more studies are needed to investigate whether dying stem cells can cause death at extreme ages.

Join the discussion

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Kate April 25 2014 at 12:27 PM

If they do more research, I'll be very interested to read it. It makes sense that various parts of our bodies simply wear out after a while, and it's already well known what an important role stem cells play. Apparently they not only begin life, but they end it as well.

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happyhappyjoyjoy April 25 2014 at 11:35 AM

This is great news!! Ahh Wouldn't it be nice if they found the Fountain of Youth, I enjoy Life every single day is a given!! and I want to spend as many days as possible with my Family

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1 reply
Master of my fate.. happyhappyjoyjoy April 25 2014 at 12:03 PM

Actually I don't think it would be nice. Beside the fact that quality of life is by far more important than just "living" look at the impracticality of everyone living past 115. After a generation of everyone living past 115, their would be far more people to take care of than people working. Just the healthcare alone would bankrupt the nation. With inflation how much more money would you need to sustain you to the end?
What about poorer nations. Their would be mass starvation. what about the burden on your children. Children would end up taking care of their parents for a extra 25-40 years.
No, I want to live a normal productive life and pass on when my time comes.

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Elizabeth April 25 2014 at 3:58 PM

Aha, Blood. Is that why vampires survive so long? LOL.LOL. LOL. LOL

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jyakimow April 25 2014 at 7:49 PM


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1 reply
xanadutu jyakimow April 25 2014 at 8:10 PM

psst - and lots of it!!!

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Bob & Nancy April 25 2014 at 11:24 AM

what a great concept! Go for weekly stem cell injections to stay youthful. I new Hollywood was doing more than botox.

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1 reply
Bob & Nancy Bob & Nancy April 25 2014 at 11:25 AM

and hope it helps my spelling lol correct me that was knew!

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1 reply
sulandherb Bob & Nancy April 25 2014 at 11:38 AM

I gnu just what you meant :)

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floatgod April 25 2014 at 11:22 AM

Gee, can you envision the day when you and everyone else on the planet lives to be 500 years old? They had better find a way for us to live without eating before they find a way for us to live longer lives!

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1 reply
keithdelliott floatgod April 25 2014 at 11:46 AM

Living to be 500.... the old folks could recall when Columbus first arrived. From Columbus to the iPhone.

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Shelly Shell April 25 2014 at 6:01 PM

Ook so let me get this right, someone correct me if I am wrong. So are they saying that since they know its the "dying stem cells" that can cause death in a seemingly healthy person up there in age? I'm now wondering will doctors/scientist create away to prolong ones life by figuring out a way to keep stem cells to stay active instead of dying out?

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2 replies
jmtpoodle Shelly Shell April 25 2014 at 6:18 PM

Do stem cells replicate?

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1 reply
fifiwereking jmtpoodle April 25 2014 at 6:41 PM

of course... how do you think scientists are growing organs from them?

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libertybudget.com Shelly Shell April 25 2014 at 8:43 PM

Very good, Shelly Shell. You're an intelligent person that asks intelligent questions. I like you. Here's another question to think about. The article states that "scientists" say she only had two blood stem cells left. I want to know how these scientists can locate two cells out of billions of cells in the human body. Is this a theory trying to self-prove, or is this just terrible journalistic over-simplification? Read this article to get a better picture of the situation. http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/23/how-many-cells-are-in-your-body/

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bmitche April 25 2014 at 11:18 AM

I wish they has listed her LDL, HDL, and triglycerides.

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Saradamato April 25 2014 at 11:18 AM

Keep studying stem cells...let no organization stop this dire need to improve life and repair damaged areas

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Tippy April 25 2014 at 7:49 PM

We don't know the day nor the hour. It happens everyday. There's only one breath between this life and the next.

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2 replies
brdf671 Tippy April 25 2014 at 8:10 PM

I agree with you. I believe you will experience GOD in your life before you die. At least I hope so! Because if you don't, the alternative is very, very bad....and HOT!!

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DAVE Tippy April 25 2014 at 8:19 PM

TIPPY... when your done your done , I'm not sure if you knows this, but we have a hubble telescope circling the earth, thousands of miles above the us, that can see thousands of light years in all directions, and they still have not found that planet with golden gates called heaven, or the planet called hell, with fire on it yet.

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1 reply
raysabetto DAVE April 25 2014 at 8:22 PM

and your point is?

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