Wikimedia Commons / Sansculotte

Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Scientists say for the extremely elderly, their stem cells might reach a state of exhaustion. This could limit one's life span.

By Nichole Cartmell | April 24, 2014

It sounds kind of bizarre, but researchers say blood from one of the world's oldest women gives new clues about a human's "life limit."

Before her death in 2005, Henny van Andel-Schipper of the Netherlands was the oldest woman alive. She lived to be 115 and 3 months old. (Via RTV Drenthe)

Surprisingly, though, when she died her brain was still in good shape — no sign of Alzheimer's or other diseases typically associated with old age. (Via CNN)

So what led to her death? Researchers now say it might have to do with dying stem cells.

Scientists at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam say at the time of van Andel-Schipper's death, she had just two blood stem cells. (Via Wikimedia Commons / UCSanDiegoStemCellProgram, Genome Research)

Let us put that in context for you. Blood stem cells are what your body uses to replenish your blood. Humans are typically born with around 20,000 of these cells, and on average about 1,000 work to keep your bloodstream pumping. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Sansculotte, Sky News)

But this study suggests over time our stem cells weaken and die out, which, as a writer for New Scientist points out, might actually limit the ability of your stem cells to replenish your tissues.

"Once the stem cells reach a state of exhaustion that imposes a limit on their own lifespan, they themselves gradually die out and steadily diminish the body's capacity to keep regenerating vital tissues and cells, such as blood." 

Although it's not known for sure whether van Andel-Schipper died because of this exhaustion, this study does reveal her white blood cells were mutated, leading scientists to wonder if some genetic mutations are actually harmless. (Via International Business Times)

And as the International Business Times says, it could mean, "​Genetic mutations may hold the key to a long life."

The researchers, whose findings were published in the journal Genome Research, say more studies are needed to investigate whether dying stem cells can cause death at extreme ages.

  TRENDING IN Sci/Health NEWS
Adélie penguins in Antartica.WATCHLIST
Eli Duke / CC BY 2.0

Giant Iceberg Traps Penguin Colony, Killing 150,000 Birds

An artist's rendition of the European Space Agency's Philae lander.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / ESA

Philae Lander Is Likely Silent Forever On The Dark Side Of A Comet

High school and middle school teachers might not know the best way to teach their students about global warming, according to a recent study.WATCHLIST
Mikael Miettinen / CC BY 2.0

Apparently, Teachers Aren't Sure How To Teach Climate Change

A mom breast-feeding at the Melbourne Zoo.WATCHLIST
Elizabeth Hunt Burrett

Breast-Feeding Mom Shares Moment With Orangutan At The Zoo

A group of cyclists travel through thick smog in China.WATCHLIST
Getty Images

Severe Air Pollution Might Have Killed Millions Worldwide

Aedes aegypti mosquitos.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Mario Tama

Hawaii Governor Signs Emergency Measure To Fight Zika Virus

Heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are displayed.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Scott Olson

Want To Get Your Research Paper Some Press? Tie It To Valentine's Day

A person praying.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Chung Sung-Jun

Belief In A 'Punishing' God Might've Helped Societies Get Bigger

IKO Creative prosthetic systemWATCHLIST
IKO

Kids Might Build Their Prostheses With Lego Bricks In The Future

A group of children play at The Little Gym.WATCHLIST
Parker Knight / CC BY 2.0

Ending Racism Means Integrating Daycare

Scientist working at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Dan Kitwood

A New Group Is Dedicated To Double-Checking Scientists' Work

A row of antibiotic pill bottlesWATCHLIST
Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Looking To The Ocean Floor For New Antibiotics

Gravitational waves in a simulation of two black holes mergingWATCHLIST
NASA

What's So Exciting About Gravitational Waves?

Compared to the rest of the national budget, NASA's funding is tiny.WATCHLIST
NASA, Newsy / Evan Thomas

What NASA Would Fund With Its Tiny $19B Wish List

Asian Elephant in IndiaWATCHLIST
Thangaraj Kumaravel / CC BY 2.0

Why Are Elephants Wandering Into Indian Towns?

Gravitational waves from two stars mergingWATCHLIST
NASA

Einstein Was Right: Scientists Just Showed Gravitational Waves Exist

More than 3,400 kids reportedly swallowed batteries in 2010, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.WATCHLIST
yoppy / CC BY 2.0

Parents Share Horror Stories After Toddlers Swallow Button Batteries

A video of a man reading while eating.WATCHLIST
Videoblocks

High School Degree, Healthy Heart Might Lower Your Risk For Dementia

Artist rendering of newly researched galaxies.WATCHLIST
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

Hundreds Of Galaxies Were Hiding Behind The Milky Way

Medical MarijuanaWATCHLIST
Getty Images / David McNew

Medical Marijuana Might Be Legalized In Australia Really Soon

A man kisses his horse.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Julian Herbert

Researchers Say Horses Can Recognize Our Facial Expressions

With so many working to fix racial bias in adults, we spoke with a neuroscience researcher who says we may need to focus our attention on kids instead In this file photograph taken on March 20, 2007, a two-week-old boy finds his feet in his new world. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced, April 3, 2007 that for the first time, mothers-to-be will have a guarantee that the NHS will provide them with a full range of birthing choices - including home births - and a midwife they know and trust to care for them. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Why Fixing Racial Biases Starts With Babies

Senior citizens walk along Llandudno Promenade on September 8, 2014 in Llandudno, Wales.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Why Live Forever? Life Is Long Enough

Senior citizens relax on Llandudno Promenade on September 8, 2014 in Llandudno, Wales.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Want To Live Forever? We Should Cure Aging

The box is filled with vegetables that are still good to eat, but might look a little odd from the outside. They're being sold at a cheap price.WATCHLIST
ASDA

Store Hopes 'Wonky Veg Box' Will Reduce Waste Of Imperfect Vegetables

A little girl poses for a photograph next to a stranded sperm whaleWATCHLIST
Getty Images / Ben Pruchnie

Scientists Offer Theory As To What Killed 30 Sperm Whales

The CRAM (compressible robot with articulated mechanisms) from the PolyPEDAL Lab at UC Berkeley.WATCHLIST
University of California, Berkeley / PolyPEDAL Lab

Cockroach-Inspired Robot Can Squeeze Into Some Tight Spaces

A rare albino green sea turtle leaves its nest.WATCHLIST
Facebook / Coolum District Coast Care Group

Surprise! This Baby Green Turtle Isn't Green At All

Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil.WATCHLIST
Getty Images / Mario Tama

The White House Is Asking For $1.8B To Counter The Zika Virus

A graphic of a coded message.WATCHLIST
Newsy

Your Brain Is A Decoding Machine; Give This Message A Try