The popular view of stem cells is typically that of high-tech treatments reserved for “the future,” far-off foreign clinics the “authorities” usually tell us to avoid. But there is being a lot of progress in the stem cell world for treating numerous conditions. What’s more, studies are showing that we may be able to harness the power of our own stem cells, using nutrients that are already accessible in ways that are more in line with traditional natural medicine than science fiction.
One of the underlying drivers of aging is a decline in the number and function of our own stem cells, which we need to aid in tissue regeneration. Of course, one way to fight aging is therefore to protect and nourish these stem cells.
Research is showing now that extracts from green tea and berries, carnosine, and vitamin D, are actually able to influence gene expression in ways that assist these cells. One of these studies is based on other research showing that substances in older animals’ blood can speed aging in younger animals, and young blood can fight aging in older animals.
This time, both young and old rats were given either a mixture of blueberry extract, green tea extract, carnosine, and vitamin D, or a placebo. Their blood serum was then administered to cultures of rat stem cells to compare their effects.
While the blood of old rats on the control diet had harmful effects on the stem cells, that of the younger (and the older) supplemented rats did not. These nutrients have protective effects on cells, where older animals’ blood is likely to contain high levels of oxidizing, inflammatory substances that cause damage.
In another study using the same nutrient combination, supplemented rats were showing a great amount of changes in gene expression, including changes that reduce the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals and increase the amount of anti-inflammatory ones. This could have significant protective effects on stem cells, guarding their ability to repair tissue.
The researchers also found another amazing discovery: this combination boosted the expression of genes that trigger stem-like cells in brain tissue to become adult neurons – creating healthy, new neurons that could replace damaged and dying cells. Properties like this could be tremendously beneficial for people living with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Another similar nutrient combination has seen success in human clinical trials. This time, it was a commercially-available formula of green tea, astragalus and goji berry extract, with vitamin D3, ellagic acid, beta-1,3 glucan and food-derived Lactobacillus fermentum (probiotics).
Eighteen adults aged 20-72 took 2 capsules twice daily for 2 weeks, and their levels of immune cells, haematopoietic and endothelial progenitor cells were measured at several points.
Even just one day after supplementation began, their numbers of 2 types of immune cells and the 2 types of partially-transformed stem cells significantly increased, and stayed that way over the 2 weeks.
A previous pilot study also showed that endothelial progenitor cells significantly rose after supplementation began. Besides being a natural, accessible alternative to experimental procedures, it could also be much more cost-effective. The difficulty in producing growth factors or directly injecting stem cells means that only a few specialized institutions are able to pull it off, and commercial viability can be poor.
Overall, these nutrient combinations may be an effective way to fight aging, targeting multiple causes such as oxidative stress, inflammation and stem cell degeneration.