June 29, 2013
Computer Model Insights On Skin Cell Aging

A computer model points to a depletion of stem cells as the biggest cause of skin aging.

The Sheffield/P&G team developed an "in silico" (computer) model of human skin biology, capturing how the outer layers of the skin are developed and maintained over time. This model simulation or "virtual" skin was then used to test the three most popular theories of how skin cells function to regenerate our skin, the largest human organ, over a three-year period. When the simulation was run according to two of the theories, the virtual skin failed to fully regenerate. Only one theory enabled the virtual skin to still be in good shape after three years, as Dr. Xinshan Li (University of Sheffield Faculty of Engineering) and Dr. Arun Upadhyay (P&G), the lead co-authors explained in their research.

What I want to know about stem cell therapies: How hard will they be to deliver once the stem cells exist?

Think about some day when we have the biotechnology to create safe youthful skin stem cells. How hard will it be to deliver them into the subdermal layer of the skin? The problem: stem cells are very small and need to be widely distributed across all the outer body right below the surface. Will we need, say, a needle robot that sticks us hundreds of thousands or millions of times and injects cells at each location? Imagine a needle robot that gradually moves over your skin sticking you repeatedly in a wave going up each arm and leg.

To put it another way: how far can we expect stem cells to travel in the subdermal layer? The farther they can travel the fewer places we need to insert them and the easier the insertion job. Can skin stem cells replicate and gradually move inches underneath the skin? Or only submillimeters? Does any reader have a good answer to this question or a reference to a discussion of the problem?

Every time skin stem cells gets activated to divide and produce some regular skin cells some of those stem cells are lost. They either entirely differentiate into non-stem cells or they die.

"The theory which seems to fit best says that skin has a population of 'sleeping' stem cells, which sit in the lowest layer of the skin but don't constantly divide to make new cells," Dr. Li said. "However, these sleeping cells can be called into action if the skin is damaged, or if the numbers of other types of more mature skin cells decrease, ensuring that the skin can be constantly regenerated under all conditions." The model showed that we gradually lose these sleeping stem cells over time-- which would explain why our ability to regenerate our skin reduces as we age. "Each time we wake up these cells, to heal a wound or replenish stocks of other cells, a few of them don't go back into sleep mode, so the population slowly reduces," says Dr. Li. "This explains why older skin is slower to heal and in part why our skin changes as we age. By understanding this mechanism better, it might be possible to find ways to combat the effects of aging on our skin."

Our stem cell reservoirs are depleting. Reverse that depletion and then a much longer, more youthful, and healthier life beckons.

Inactive stem cells with dangerous mutations are like sleeping time bombs waiting to go off.

"The stem cells can harbor mutations throughout the years, but with no effect if they're still in sleep mode," explains Dr. Li. "However, when they start to divide to heal a wound for example, this could trigger the cancer. If it's possible to study this phenomenon for long periods of time it may be possible to find ways to prevent the activation of mutated cells and therefore reduce the risk of developing the disease."

What would really help make stem cell therapies easier to do: the ability to direct stem cells to where they are most needed. These researchers directed the stem cells to bones. If similar techniques can be made work for most other tissue types then the delivery of stem cell therapies will become much easier.

SACRAMENTO A research team led by UC Davis Health System scientists has developed a novel technique to enhance bone growth by using a molecule which, when injected into the bloodstream, directs the body's stem cells to travel to the surface of bones. Once these cells are guided to the bone surface by this molecule, the stem cells differentiate into bone-forming cells and synthesize proteins to enhance bone growth. The study, which was published online today in Nature Medicine, used a mouse model of osteoporosis to demonstrate a unique treatment approach that increases bone density and prevents bone loss associated with aging and estrogen deficiency.

We might have to go thru refurbishing periods where, say, for a week or month we get injections of stem cells tagged to go to different areas of the body.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 June 29 10:32 AM 

destructure said at June 30, 2013 1:09 AM:

The problem: stem cells are very small and need to be widely distributed across all the outer body right below the surface.

Now that is the question isn't it. I've wondered about this myself. But I've thought about it in terms of vessels. There are vessels throughout the entire body. And they eventually break down creating varicose veins and what not. I've read that up to 1/3 of the population will be affected. It would be a lot harder to get stem cells into vessels walls then just under the skin. As for skin, I've read that they've built a skin cell gun that's in development for burn victims. The take skin stem cells culture them and spray them on the burned area with a sprayer that looks like airbrush. Apparently, the area is healed within days. All you have to do is turn yourself into a fireball first. ಠ_ಠ

Randall Parker said at June 30, 2013 10:56 AM:

Some types of stem cells travel thru the blood stream. We need to know which do and which do not. My guess is that stem cells for the vasculature can be delivered via the blood stream.

Blood and bone marrow stem cells travel thru the bloodstream. So youthful stem cell treatment for immune and red blood cells sounds like it'll be pretty easy to deliver.

Higher levels of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells circulate in the blood after skin injuries. Do they have the ability to convert into skin cells?

Brett Bellmore said at June 30, 2013 5:57 PM:

I find myself wondering what going through something like chemotherapy does to this population of stem cells. On the one hand, if the cells stay inactive, they should be largely untouched. Alternatively, it could be that stem cells are constantly being recruited to replace dying skin cells, and the therapy seriously depletes the pool. I'm guessing the latter; After undergoing chemo, I find my skin heals much more poorly, and almost always scars from injuries which would have completely healed only a few years earlier. I may have survived, but I'm guessing some parts of my body aged a decade or more in the space of a few months.

Skin will probably be about the easiest tissue, except for blood and blood vessels, to supply with stem cells. It consists entirely of accessible surface, you need only penetrate it a few millimeters in it's thickest parts. I can see a future for myself as a pincushion.

destructure said at June 30, 2013 9:53 PM:


I've read that people who get a bone marrow transplant take on some of the genetics of the donor. I'd also read that some women have been found with male dna in their brains after giving birth to a boy. Did I read that here? That makes a lot of sense because they're sharing blood with the baby so they would get an infusion of those stem cells. I would think that very healthy for the mother. It suggests that vessels would be a great way to deliver. The question is how to make them go where you want. For example, floating through vessels doesn't mean they'd repair the vessels. They could end up anywhere.

jp straley said at July 2, 2013 8:47 AM:

There's a cosmetic technique, acid etching of skin, that removes the top layer and lets new cells grow in place. Though painful, this gives a more youthful-looking skin. Could this be used sort of like a chemical scotch-brite, preparing the skin for the stem cell sprayer technique mentioned by "destructure" ?

REN said at July 7, 2013 12:46 PM:

Suppose society stratifies into an Oligarchy or Plutocracy? Then the wealth required for these therapies is not available to the sheeple. In fact, age extension will likely be used to further lock down the oligarchy.

Let's look at Mexico. It has gone through several Bear raids and Peso collapses. Every time, the ruling elite was given forewarning, and allowed to exchange peso's for dollars in advance. Financial predators then engage in their bear raid, driving down the economy into crises. After the devaluation, the financial secret society elites swoop back in using dollars to buy up now depreciated peso denominated assets. In effect, they use this known economic mechanism to divide society into have and have nots. Real assets, such as waterways, industrial plant and equipment, land and land's free gifts, become owned by this controlling elite. This is why only about 3% of the population (the elites) own Mexico, while the remaining 97% of the population fights over 3% of the economic pie. This is legal theft, but it is not called as such because the government is owned by these same private elites.

If we American's don't think that can happen to us, then think again. This private parasitic economic money power can jump to any host it wants to. I would suggest that China is being built up for that role now.

As our technology advances we cannot also advance with an antiquated money system. The two lines intersect and collide. The future does not extrapolate into more and better, as the earth's resources cannot expand exponentially in accordance with exponential usury. This aspect of the money system is beyond question. Therefore, it will sort itself into ruling elites who decide who gets what and when. Will Obamacare allow expensive life extension therapies? Obamacare is designed to corral the sheeple into a herd.

Now, lets drill into the medical profession. All markets are divided into three types, with some overlap: Elastic, Inelastic, and mixed. Elastic is when you can buy with choice, say Bayer aspirin vs the store brand. With elastic markets, prices have competition and hence law can be minimum. Inelastic markets are things like the military, ports, roads, sewers, power lines, public commons. There can be no easy competition for these markets, and hence they must be regulated or government owned. Mixed markets have combination of both, and the medical market is a perfect example.

When have you heard any futurist explaining the medical industry as a mixed market? I suggest that what most people know is via a mind lock, they don't know things as an output of our propaganda info system. Welcome to the matrix, but fortunately we have small corners of the internet where free thinking is allowed. So, government will insist that they can run the medical industry most efficiently, as they can control prices. Yet, simultaneously, private actors will insist that all medical care is elastic, and a province of free enterprise.

The reality is, when you become unconscious, or are dying, you don't give a damn - and you no longer have choice, you have crossed over into inelastic and new rules must then take over. I've seen no discussion anywhere on what rules should be invoked with medical. We are moving headlong into government controlled medical, and government inelastic rules will decide who gets what. To step outside of the rule paradigm, you will need to be rich, and that is unlikely given growing oligarchy. Government controlled medical will be the likely outcome of insurance derived Obamacare, as the insurance companies are fascist with guaranteed positions in the economy.... this guarantee is from government.

These life extending therapies will not be extended to the lumpenproletariat, especially as their life energies in the form of their labor were extracted toward the rich in oligarchial schemes.

The super-rich have always feared the sheeple. At some level, the super rich know they have gotten that way on the backs of others. The past is a reference, as they have purged populations when considered as a threat. It could be equally true any oligarchy/plutocracy can decide the population is too high, and then use gene or virus therapy to reduce the population.

Only when a population is economically free will we have the ability to humanely deal with the coming future.

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