Here is a weird but tantalizing study.
In the living body there are many different cell types. Different cells divide and die at different rates. Some cells, such as those lining the gastrointestinal tract, live out their life cycles in only a few days and are replaced by the offspring of stem cells.
Brain cells, also known as neurons, appear to live for the entire lifespan of their host, which in the case of humans can be more than 100 years. But what about longer?
These cells do not divide. They do age slowly, and can die or be afflicted by diseases.
In the current study, researchers speculated that brain cells might be able to outlive the lifespan of their host.
The scientists removed embryonic neuron precursors from mice and transplanted them into the developing brain of the longer lived Wistar rat.
The siblings of the donor mice in the study lived an average of 18 months, whereas the Wistar rats lived an average of 30 months and up to 48 months.
The mice neurons were labeled and the rats with transplanted nerve cells were followed for their entire lifespan.
It was discovered that the mice neurons survived for the entire lifespan of the recipient rats, proving that brain cells are capable of far outliving their hosts.
The researchers conclude:
“Our results suggest that neuronal survival and aging are co- incidental but separable processes, thus increasing our hope that extending organismal lifespan by dietary, behavioral, and pharmacologic interventions will not necessarily result in a neuronally depleted brain.”