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US bi­ol­o­gists found that a 24-hour fast can re­verse the age-re­lated loss of in­testi­nal stem cell func­tion that can re­gen­er­ate new in­testi­nal cells.

The study re­vealed that fast­ing dra­mat­i­cally im­proves stem cells’ abil­ity to re­gen­er­ate, in both aged and young mice. In fast­ing mice, cells be­gin break­ing down fatty acids in­stead of glu­cose, a change that stim­u­lates the stem cells to be­come more regenerative. The re­searchers found that they could also boost re­gen­er­a­tion with a mol­e­cule that ac­ti­vates the same meta­bolic switch and such an in­ter­ven­tion could po­ten­tially help older peo­ple re­cov­er­ing from gas­troin­testi­nal in­fec­tions or can­cer pa­tients un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy. “Fast­ing has many ef­fects in the in­tes­tine, which in­clude boost­ing re­gen­er­a­tion as well as po­ten­tial uses in any type of ail­ment that im­pinges on the in­tes­tine, such as in­fec­tions or can­cers,” said Omer Yil­maz, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of bi­ol­ogy in Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT), and one of the se­nior au­thors of the study.

“This study pro­vided ev­i­dence that fast­ing in­duces a meta­bolic switch in the in­testi­nal stem cells, from util­is­ing car­bo­hy­drates to burn­ing fat,” said David Sa­ba­tini, an MIT pro­fes­sor of bi­ol­ogy and the paper’s an­other se­nior author.

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