How old are your organs? To scientists’ surprise, organs are a mix of young and old cells

Salk scientists discover cellular structures with extreme longevity, leading to insights for age-associated diseases

LA JOLLA—(June 6, 2019) Scientists once thought that neurons, or possibly heart cells, were the oldest cells in the body. Now, Salk Institute researchers have discovered that the mouse brain, liver and pancreas contain populations of cells and proteins with extremely long lifespans—some as old as neurons. The findings, demonstrating “age mosaicism,” were published in Cell Metabolism on June 6, 2019. The team’s methods could be applied to nearly any tissue in the body to provide valuable information about lifelong function of non-dividing cells and how cells lose control over the quality and integrity of proteins and important cell structures during aging.

“We were quite surprised to find cellular structures that are essentially as old as the organism they reside in,” says Salk Vice President, Chief Science Officer Martin Hetzer, senior author and professor. “This suggests even greater cellular complexity than we previously imagined and has intriguing implications for how we think about the aging of organs, such as the brain, heart and pancreas.”

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