Chinese scientists say they’ve identified a particular group of cells located near the motor neurons in the spine that speeds up aging. Based on research, however, taking vitamin C supplements on a regular daily basis might help slow this process down.
According to the well-respected journal Nature, the positioning of these cells might also be the reason why the elderly often walk with a bit of a shuffle.
Anti-aging spinal cord effects
A seven-year investigation brought together scientists from three different labs. They aimed to bridge a gap in our understanding of how the spinal cord affects aging and overall health.
This study, which relied on animal experiments, received guidance from Liu Guanghui and Qu Jing at the Institute of Zoology, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Zhang Weiqi from the Beijing Institute of Genomics, also under the same academy.
Examination of special groups of cells
The researchers examined individual cells to identify special groups that form around aging motor neurons in the spinal cords of older primates.
Liu explained, “These distinct cell clusters must have a specific life purpose. Our further investigation revealed that they secrete a ‘toxic’ protein that contributes to accelerating the aging of motor neurons.”
Principal actors for regulating body movement
Despite accounting for only about 0.3-0.4 percent of all spinal cord cells, motor neurons are the principal actors in regulating body movement. They control the body’s motor functions by directing skeletal muscles throughout the body.
“Our research also confirms that motor neurons are the most sensitive cells in the spinal cord when it comes to aging,” the report read.
Role of Vitamin C in anti-aging
The scientists also looked into whether vitamin C might help in slowing down the aging process. Vitamin C is a common dietary supplement that has been in use for many years, but there has not been clear evidence from clinical trials that it has definite anti-aging effects.
To investigate this, the researchers conducted tests on ten cynomolgus monkeys, all between seventeen and eighteen years old. They randomly divided the monkeys into two groups.
In this study, one group of monkeys received a daily dose of vitamin C at thirty milligrams per kilogram (30mg/kg). This vitamin C was dissolved in the monkeys’ drinking water and given to them after breakfast. This went on for forty months.
The other group of monkeys received the same amount of drinking water but without the vitamin C supplement. They acted as a control group for comparison, as mentioned in the report.
The researchers observed a “significant” improvement in the signs of aging for the motor neurons of the older monkeys who received the oral vitamin C supplements. This suggests that taking vitamin C in this way could be helpful.