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Medicine Science

Fasting Triggers Stem Cell Regeneration of Damaged, Old Immune System 148

schwit1 sends word of research showing that cycles of prolonged fasting can both protect the immune system from harm and also induce regeneration by causing stem cells to start renewing themselves. 'In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial (abstract), long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles then "flipped a regenerative switch," changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems, the research showed. "PKA is the key gene that needs to shut down in order for these stem cells to switch into regenerative mode. It gives the OK for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," explained [study author Valter Longo], noting the potential of clinical applications that mimic the effects of prolonged fasting to rejuvenate the immune system. "And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting. Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."'
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Fasting Triggers Stem Cell Regeneration of Damaged, Old Immune System

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  • by borcharc ( 56372 ) * on Saturday June 07, 2014 @03:31PM (#47187143)

    This would not be caused by the effect in this study. You wold need to fast continuously for 48-72 hours or more to get the benefit they found. Eating after sundown would replenish the body's supply of glucose and prevent the energy conservation required.

  • by Urkki ( 668283 ) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @03:57PM (#47187231)

    Fasting and being starved are quite different things...Fasting is not about getting too little energy and nutrients in the long term, or being malnourished. Even suggesting that starvation is just a form of fasting is naive and ignorant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 07, 2014 @05:38PM (#47187619)

    Starvation is also linked to massive internal organ failure.

    Yes, *starvation*, which is NOT *fasting*.

    I find your comment a little bit comical as your only real reference for starvation probably comes from not eating your regular lunch.

    As for GP with their comments about "ramadan and fasting", please. Not eating for 12h is hardly any real fasting. Fasting, for the purposes of this experiment, is not eating for 2-3+ days, not a few hours. For humans, it would probably require 3-4 days fast to get similar results.

    Starvation, FYI, is *chronic* lack of calories. Like eating 1000 calories a day for a few months would result in starvation. Anorexia is an example of people starving themselves.

  • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @09:43PM (#47188473) Homepage
    Did you mean <60 g/day?
    < is 'less than'
    > is 'more than'
  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @11:53PM (#47188761)

    The 48-72 hours was more likely chosen because it would allow the postdocs, grad students, and techs to not have to come in at midnight on a weekend to kill a mouse and drain them of their blood (and then quit and join a different lab). Not because that time frame was empirically determined to be the minimum fasting time required for the effect.

    I guess you've never been a grad student/tech, then? In the lab I worked in (with rats and mice, actually, though it was sleep & circadian research) they had no problem sending the grad students - or even better, the undergrad interns - in at midnight to do various studies.

    Yes, I have sat after midnight in a lab lit only by dim red light (doesn't interrupt rat rhythms) for several hours basically keeping rats awake when they start to nod off. Which is also why our lab invented a cage that would automatically tip the rats into a pool of water when they fell asleep. Which I guess is a bit ironic that the pursuit of a decent night's sleep led to a device that prevented a decent night's sleep...

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