Michigan company mines stem cells in search of Fountain of Youth

Sep 9, 2016
Originally published on September 8, 2016 9:27 pm

The Next Idea

Could the ancient search for the Fountain of Youth lead to Ann Arbor?

That's where a company called Forever Labs is working to solve the universal problem of getting old. 

Its solution: store your stem cells when you're a young adult so you can use them as you age.

Forever Labs CEO Steven Clausnitzer​ and president Mark Katakowski​ joined us today to talk about their plan, how stem cells work in our bodies, and why Southeast Michigan is fertile ground for companies such as theirs. 

For a quick stem cells crash course, Katakowski explained that we have stem cells in just about every tissue of our bodies.

"They replace and they rejuvenate the tissue," he said. "Basically all systems of your body are replenished by stem cells to some degree."

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The number of stem cells in our bodies decreases over time, along with their level of activity and "therapeutic potential," he said. While that does reduce their immediate usefulness within the body, Katakowski told us this diminishing functionality is actually part of a defense mechanism against cancer. 

"As cells get older, they get damaged," he said. "It's part of this natural process as cells grow older, the stem cells that have all this potential, that they start to decline in number and just kind of turn off over time."

Clausnitzer told us what they're doing at Forever Labs can be thought of as a kind of "stem cell time travel."

"What we're doing is we're storing that ability that you have which is amazing when we're younger and diminishes as you get older," Clausnitzer said. "We take your bone marrow, and we isolate out your stem cells, and we ... freeze them at a temperature that essentially renders them biologically inert."

Effectively, he told us, your stored stem cells stay the same age, ready to be reintroduced into your system when you're older. 

To hear more about the process and potential health benefits of this "stem cell time travel," listen to our full conversation below.

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Steven Clausnitzer is CEO of Forever Labs. 

Mark Katakowski is president of Forever Labs.


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