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Reduction of caloric intake delays and prevents age-associated diseases and extends the life span in many organisms. It may be that these benefits are due to positive effects of caloric restriction on stem cell function. We use the planarian model Schmidtea mediterranea, an immortal animal that adapts to long periods of starvation by shrinking in size, to investigate the effects of starvation on telomere length. We show that the longest telomeres are a general signature of planarian adult stem cells. We also observe that starvation leads to an enrichment of stem cells with the longest telomeres and that this enrichment is dependent on mTOR signaling. We propose that one important effect of starvation for the rejuvenation of the adult stem cell pool is through increasing the median telomere length in somatic stem cells. Such a mechanism has broad implications for how dietary effects on aging are mediated at the whole-organism level.

Original publication




Journal article


Stem Cell Reports

Publication Date





405 - 418


SMG-1, aging, fasting, immortal, mTOR, neoblast, planarian, starvation, stem cell, telomere