The June 5, 2014 issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell published the finding of Valter D. Longo and colleagues at the University of Southern California (USC) of a rejuvenating effect for fasting on immune system cells.
“The good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting,” he continued. “Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”
“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged,” stated Dr Longo, who is the director of the USC Longevity Institute. “What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?”
Dr Longo and his associates determined that the reduction in these immune system cells triggers the stem cell-based regeneration of new cells. Fasting was found to reduce an enzyme known as PKA, which, when lowered, extended the life span of simple organisms in previous research conducted by the team. “PKA is the key gene that needs to shut down in order for these stem cells to switch into regenerative mode,” Dr Longo explained. “It gives the ‘okay’ for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system.”