When stem cells grow old: phenotypes and mechanisms of stem cell aging

Development. 2016 Jan 1;143(1):3-14. doi: 10.1242/dev.130633.


All multicellular organisms undergo a decline in tissue and organ function as they age. An attractive theory is that a loss in stem cell number and/or activity over time causes this decline. In accordance with this theory, aging phenotypes have been described for stem cells of multiple tissues, including those of the hematopoietic system, intestine, muscle, brain, skin and germline. Here, we discuss recent advances in our understanding of why adult stem cells age and how this aging impacts diseases and lifespan. With this increased understanding, it is feasible to design and test interventions that delay stem cell aging and improve both health and lifespan.

Keywords: Age-related diseases; Hematopoietic stem cells; Multicellular organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Telomere Shortening / physiology