Production of new neurons in the adult hippocampus decreases with age; this decline may underlie age-related cognitive impairment. Here we show that continuous depletion of the neural stem cell pool, as a consequence of their division, may contribute to the age-related decrease in hippocampal neurogenesis. Our results indicate that adult hippocampal stem cells, upon exiting their quiescent state, rapidly undergo a series of asymmetric divisions to produce dividing progeny destined to become neurons and subsequently convert into mature astrocytes. Thus, the decrease in the number of neural stem cells is a division-coupled process and is directly related to their production of new neurons. We present a scheme of the neurogenesis cascade in the adult hippocampus that includes a proposed "disposable stem cell" model and accounts for the disappearance of hippocampal neural stem cells, the appearance of new astrocytes, and the age-related decline in the production of new neurons.
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