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Stem Cells. 2006 Jun;24(6):1505-11. Epub 2006 Feb 2.

Effects of aging and niche microenvironment on spermatogonial stem cell self-renewal.

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Department of Animal Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 19104, USA.


Aging is evident in most tissues and organ systems, but the mechanisms of aging are difficult to identify and poorly understood. Here, we test the hypothesis that aging results in uncorrected defects in stem cell and/or niche function, which lead to system failure. We used the spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) transplantation assay to determine the effect of aging on testis stem cell/niche function in mice. Between 12 and 24 months of age, male mice experienced a declining level of fertility associated with decreased testis weight, level of spermatogenesis, and total stem cell content. However, when stem cells were consecutively passaged at 3-month intervals to testes of young males, these stem cells continued to produce spermatogenesis for more than 3 years. Thus, SSC self-renewal continues long past the normal life span of the animal when the stem cell is continually maintained in a young niche/microenvironment. Moreover, these data suggest that infertility in old males results from deterioration of the SSC niche and failure to support an appropriate balance between stem cell self-renewal and differentiation.

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