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Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2002 May-Jun;34(3):249-61.

Quantifying dense bodies and lipofuscin during aging: a morphologist's perspective.

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Cell Biology and Aging Section, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, CA 94121, USA.


Secondary lysosomes, residual or dense bodies containing lipofuscin or age pigment accumulate in post-mitotic and inter-mitotic cells during aging. The consensus is that the accumulation of this auto-fluorescent material is an index of cellular senescence. Biochemical and morphological studies have independently demonstrated marked age-related increases in the cell and tissue contents of lipofuscin. Most morphological studies on aging have been qualitative, have included only two or three age groups and have not yielded data that are easily correlated with biochemical analyses. One of the best documented age-related changes in hepatocytes and cardiac myocytes is the accumulation of dense bodies and lipofuscin inclusions. Independent stereologic studies reported two- to eightfold age-related increases in the dense body volume fraction of rat hepatocytes. Furthermore, we reported a fourfold increase in the dense body volume fraction of cardiac myocytes in rats between 6 and 30 months of age. These and other studies confirm the use of quantitative morphology to estimate the increases in dense body and lipofuscin inclusions as indices of age. Whether or not the accumulated lipofuscin compromises cell functions in senescent animals has not been adequately addressed. On the one hand, there is little evidence that several-fold increases in this subcellular compartment impair the functional capacities of either hepatocytes or cardiac myocytes. On the other hand, the age-related accumulation of immunoprecipitable, but catalytically inactive, lysosomal enzymes in both liver and heart muscle may be a reflection of increased lipofuscin deposits in the dense bodies.


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