New research suggests that our body stays young as we age. The average age of our cells is three years according to the researchers. Some cells seem to live longer than others, a finding that may one day help scientists better understand how and why certain diseases can occur.
Scientists at the University of Technology in Germany led the study. More than 30 people died of various causes between the ages of 20 and 84, and they tried to estimate the length of their lives. They used a technique called retrospective radiocarbon birth dating to do this.
Thanks to the start and end of nuclear weapons testing, levels of radiocarbon activity in the environment have increased. Scientists have been able to use environmental radiocarbon as a measure of a cell's age because it can end up in the cell's DNA. The radiocarbon is more likely to be in a cell that has been there a long time.
Most of the cells in the sample group were young and the same age. Most of the cells in our body replace themselves once a year, and the average age of our body is three years. The findings were published Tuesday.
The organ that filters harmful toxins out of our body is known to be hardy and fast-healing. The researchers don't know if the ability to heal will decline over time. The findings suggest that the organ can live on even in old age.
As we get older, there may be changes in the liver. Most cells in the body can only carry one set of chromosomes, but some cells in the body can carry more than one set. The team found that these cells seem to live longer than other cells in the body, and that people have more of these cells over time. They think that this change may help the health of our organs. It is possible that people's risk of health problems can go up when the process goes wrong.
As this fraction gradually increases with age, it could be a protective mechanism that safeguards us from accumulating harmful genes. It's important to find out if there are similar mechanisms in chronic liver disease.
The team's findings will need to be verified by other research teams before they can be taken as a sign of good fortune. Other research has suggested that certain brain cells can be regenerated even as we get older. They want to know if heart cells in people with chronic heart disease can still grow new ones.
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