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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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ronspinon1 April 25 2014 at 1:00 PM

Isn't this what sci-fi writers have been preaching for eons? Of course they open that can of worms by continuing on into people living for hundred's of years by having their own daily transfusion of blood or stem cells as the case may be. Glad to see the lady had most of her faculties when she did pass, rather than the streaming madness of Alzheimers dragging her down. Maybe that's what most of us need, a fresh patch of brain stem cells added to hold down the ravages of mental deterioation? Okay, patch me up Scotty, ready for my transfusion NOW!

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italybai April 25 2014 at 12:25 PM

For perfect health for Life - Get a mini-trampoline (the one with the springs) and do rebounding (always do this without shoes) use the movement of heel-toe (your feet never leave the matt) work up to 15 min AM BEFORE breakfast - 15 min PM after dinner. - Reworking your Lymph system is the key to perfect health - but weight loss as well - Bee Healthy!!

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honeygirlf April 25 2014 at 12:25 PM

what was her blood type?

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Sherrie Dobbie April 25 2014 at 6:19 PM

depending on the quality of an old life, I am not sure I would want to hang on beyond my capacity to care for myself to a large degree.

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graphlogix April 25 2014 at 12:24 PM

It has me thinking, if you donate blood, are you losing some stem cells?

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El Presidente April 25 2014 at 12:19 PM

"leading scientists to wonder if some genetic mutations are actually harmless."

Uh...I think any kid who's taken middle-school science knows that.

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fnhaggerty April 25 2014 at 12:10 PM

The Hammon Gamma Globulin Field Trials, 1951–1953 may increase the lives of those who recieved the drugs to protect them from Polio

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PLW April 25 2014 at 12:04 PM

It sounds even worse to think you get a stem cell boost by whatever source and you have your mind at 115. Great, but you've still got a 115 year old body.

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1 reply
Kate PLW April 25 2014 at 12:31 PM

At that age, I think what interests you more is simply being alive and being able to enjoy the things your mind can appreciate. The bodily aches and pains are something that by then I'm sure you're perfectly accustomed to.

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1 reply
thearkinfamily Kate April 25 2014 at 1:24 PM

why would you want to get accustomed to be in pain every day every second of your life. How can you enjoy it if you cant do anything. God should decide this stuff not science. I dont think god would be very happy with all the scientist trying to play god.

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Mostberg April 25 2014 at 12:03 PM

We knew a lady who lived to 108, but in her case she lived a very boring life. She never married and that was no problem, but she seemed to have no hobbies or interests in her last decade or so, although healthy. As for me, I am 78 and enjoy my young friends more than my old friends. That - for me - is the secret of enjoying a long life and so far I am still young and in pretty good health. And, I still enjoy observing beautiful women of all ages.

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3 replies
mail4warding April 25 2014 at 11:43 AM

dutch chocolate in hot cocoa drink is the elixir....

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