Blood Cells Resembling Leukemia Increase in Our Blood System As We Grow Older, According to a Study

Some people seem destined to develop genetic mutations which leads to leukemia as they grow older, this is according to a new study just published online in Cell Reports last Feb.26. This is not widespread however. Only very few people are affected by it.

Aging does something to the DNA. Just like any cells in our body, aging brings about natural damage to the DNA and their function also becomes less efficient. Both of these are normal consequence as we people become older.

British researchers searched particularly at mutations in blood stem cells. “Over time, the probability of these cells acquiring mutations rises,” co-lead author Thomas McKerrell, M.D., of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, U.K., said in an institute news release. “What surprised us was that we found these mutations in such a large proportion of elderly people.”

(In the latest study the research team examined 4,219 individuals without any clue of blood cancer. They discovered in the course of their investigation that up to 20 percent of people in the age bracket 50 to 60 years old, and over 70 percent of people older than 90 years old acquire blood cells that manifest in their genes transformation similar to those seen in leukemia.

“This study helps us understand how aging can lead to leukemia, even though the great majority of people will not live long enough to accumulate all the mutations required to develop the disease,” McKerrell said.

(Study senior author George Vassiliou, M.D., Ph.D., of the Sanger Institute and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, comcurred. “These mutations will be harmless for the majority of people, but for a few unlucky carriers they will take the body on a journey towards leukemia,” Vassiliou said in the news release. With the new study, “we are now beginning to understand the major landmarks on that journey,” he explained.

 

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