Researchers reveal that fasting can help stem cells regain regeneration ability, according to a new study published on May 30, 2018.
Stem cells in the intestine tend to lose their ability to regenerate, as people grow older. This in turn makes it difficult for old people to recover from gastrointestinal infections or other conditions affecting the intestine.
Scientists from MIT discovered that this age-related loss of stem cell function can be reversed by a 24-hour fast. This dramatically improves stem cells’ ability to regenerate, in both old and young mice.
When mice started fasting, the team observed that their cells broke down fatty acids instead of glucose, which stimulates the stem cells to become more regenerative. Such an intervention could potentially help older people recover from GI infections or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
“Fasting has many effects in the intestine, which include boosting regeneration as well as potential uses in any type of ailment that impinges on the intestine, such as infections or cancers. Understanding how fasting improves overall health, including the role of adult stem cells in intestinal regeneration, in repair, and in aging, is a fundamental interest of my laboratory.” said Omer Yilmaz, senior author of the study.
After mice fasted for 24 hours, researchers removed intestinal stem cells and grew them in a culture dish, allowing them to determine whether the cells can give rise to mini-intestines known as organoids. This doubled the regenerative capacity.