When I was a teenager and would injure a muscle playing football or sprain my ankle playing basketball, it really hurt. However, within two or three days, typically I would be back on the field or the court. Minor injuries like muscle strains or minor sprains do not have a lasting impact on the young. However, if we fast forward that time clock another twenty or thirty years, wow, what a difference! In my thirties, such injuries could last a week or two. Now, in my fifties, I can feel the pain of that strain or sprain for upwards of a month. What happened to me?
A new scientific study at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and University of Ottawa has revealed the answer: as people age, the stem cells in their bodies decrease in number.* Therefore, the ability for the body to repair muscle damage also decreases because the reservoir of muscle precursor cells available to differentiate into muscle cells has gradually been dropping. What causes this reservoir of stem cells to decrease?
According to the researchers who conducted this study, there is a signaling pathway from tissue that surrounds the stem cells which acts like a taxi dispatcher. A taxi dispatcher determines whether a particular taxi cab should go to the north or the south for its next passenger. In this case, the tissue, or our taxi dispatcher, emits a molecule that tells the cell to stop dividing into one new satellite stem cell and one new muscle cell but rather to divide only into cells that can become muscle fiber. Over time, this decrease in the stem cell population means that there will be a reduced capacity to repair and rebuild muscle tissue.
For a more technical description of the mechanism of the JAK/STAT Signaling Pathway, please see the following video:
Protein shakes of the future?
All of this brings us back to the idea that maybe one day the cord blood or cord tissue stem cells that you bank today for your baby at Cryo-Cell may, in thirty or forty years, be used to rejuvenate his/her body with a new, young source of healthy stem cells.
Today, I drink a protein shake after a heavy workout to help my body recover. It could be that your baby, when grown up in twenty or thirty years, will laugh at that idea because they are able to infuse their cord blood or cord tissue stem cells to really
help recover from a workout or injury.
Who knows what the future will bring for cord blood banking and cord blood or cord tissue stem cells? They may be the protein drink of the future….
* Study published September 7th, 2014 online Nature Medicine (2014) doi:10.1038/nm.3655