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What body part does not age?

Aging is a natural part of life that affects every part of the body. As we grow older, our skin loses elasticity, our joints become stiffer, and our muscles lose strength. But is there any part of the body that defies the aging process and stays forever young?

The Brain

While the brain does undergo some changes as we age, it is remarkably resilient. With the right lifestyle choices, we can maintain and even improve our cognitive abilities well into old age.

The main parts of the brain that are vulnerable to aging are:

  • Frontal lobe – involved in planning, problem-solving, and emotional regulation
  • Hippocampus – important for memory formation
  • Cerebellum – coordinates motor control and balance

These areas shrink as we get older, which can lead to decreased cognitive function. However, the rate of decline varies greatly between individuals. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, social interaction, physical exercise, and a healthy diet can all help minimize age-related brain volume loss.

In fact, with the right lifestyle, the aging brain has an impressive ability to reorganize and compensate for any losses. The neurons in the brain can make new connections to maintain cognitive abilities even when some cells die off.

Additionally, research shows the hippocampus has the ability to generate new neurons even into old age, a process called neurogenesis. This adds to the evidence that our brains can renew themselves as we get older.

Stem Cells

Stem cells are special cells that have the potential to develop into many different cell types. There are several types of stem cells in the body:

  • Embryonic stem cells – found in embryos
  • Induced pluripotent stem cells – created by reprogramming adult cells
  • Adult stem cells – found in various adult tissues

These immature cells are able to self-renew by dividing to produce more stem cells. They also can differentiate into specialized cells with specific functions.

Stem cells are located in many adult tissues including bone marrow, peripheral blood, umbilical cord blood, adipose tissue, and more. While the number and potency of adult stem cells decrease with age, they still remain present even in elderly individuals.

Researchers are investigating how to activate and utilize stem cells from one’s own body to repair or regenerate tissues as we age. This includes producing new neurons in the brain, regenerating muscle, and repairing cardiovascular damage.

Because stem cells are self-renewing and can give rise to multiple cell types, they represent a cell population that resists aging and persists throughout life.

Reproductive Cells

Reproductive cells including sperm and egg cells are distinctive in that they do not age. At any point in life, the DNA within newly created sperm or eggs will be as youthful as it was during early development.

This cellular fountain of youth allows for the continuation of the species and renewal with each generation. The fundamental reason reproductive cells do not age has to do with how DNA is stored:

  • Somatic cells – normal body cells that make up skin, organs, muscles, etc. In these cells, the DNA is loosely packed around histone proteins.
  • Reproductive cells – DNA is tightly wound around proteins called protamines which allow the DNA to be densely packaged.

This tight packaging protects the DNA from damage accumulation and mutations. As somatic cells continually divide, errors creep into the DNA leading to aging. But reproductive cell DNA is shielded in a youthful state.

Therefore, while the rest of the body may show signs of aging, the cellular DNA within reproductive cells is continually renewed in a pristine condition.

The Heart

The heart has an exceptional capacity for renewal that persists even into old age. The heart is made up of cardiomyocytes, the muscle cells that pump blood.

It was long thought that cardiomyocytes could not regenerate. But in the past few decades, evidence has shown the heart can create new cardiomyocytes throughout life:

  • Young humans – cardiomyocytes renew at a rate of ~1% annually
  • Older adults – renewal is less but still present, around 0.3-0.5% annually

This cellular regeneration may help preserve cardiac function. Scientists are still working to understand why the cardiomyocyte renewal rate slows down with age.

In addition to renewing its muscle cells, the heart can develop new blood vessels in a process called neovascularization. This ability persists with aging, allowing repair of damaged vessels.

The heart’s capacity for ongoing cell generation and blood vessel formation enables a surprising degree of regeneration. This may allow the heart to maintain strength and vitality well into old age.

The Kidneys

The kidneys filter the blood to remove wastes and excess fluid. Nephrons, which are comprised of renal tubules and glomeruli, are the basic structural and functional units of the kidneys.

For many years, the nephrons were thought to be a fixed population that only declined with age. But more recently, researchers have discovered the kidneys do have regenerative potential:

  • Animals like mice and rats continually form new nephrons throughout life from progenitor cells
  • Adult human kidneys also have progenitor cells that can become nephrons, though at a slower rate

This lifelong nephron endowment may help sustain kidney function into old age. In one study with over 1200 human kidney samples, people ages 70-100 were found to have nephron populations comparable to younger adults.

Further, the kidneys have a strong capacity to adapt to damage by enlarging existing nephrons rather than forming new ones. This renal reserve allows the remaining nephrons to increase filtration when needed.

Between its ability to add and adapt nephrons, the kidneys are equipped with regenerative mechanisms that persist for decades of life.

The Liver

The liver has impressive regenerative powers that do not decline with age. Up to 2/3 of the liver can be surgically removed, and it will regrow to its original size in a week or two.

This is possible because mature liver cells, called hepatocytes, retain the ability to divide and proliferate. In response to liver injury or loss of liver tissue, hepatocytes multiply rapidly until the original liver size is restored.

The liver also harbors special progenitor cells that can differentiate into hepatocytes or other liver cell types when needed. This provides an additional source for renewal.

Thanks to its hepatocytes and progenitor cells, the liver maintains its strong regenerative potential regardless of a person’s age.

The Lungs

The lungs gradually lose elasticity and are less efficient at exchanging gases with aging. However, there is evidence the lungs have regenerative capabilities that persist into old age:

  • Animal studies show mature lung cells can proliferate and regenerate lung tissue
  • Humans have lung epithelial progenitor cells that can create new lung cells
  • The number of progenitor cells does decrease with age, but they remain present even in the elderly

Further, it appears the lungs have a remarkable ability to recover function after damage. Even patients with COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, and other lung conditions can regain lost lung capacity after treatment and lifestyle changes.

While the lungs do undergo age-related changes, their ability to renew cells and restore function indicates regenerative potential lasting into old age.

The Intestines

The intestines have an inner mucosal layer that faces the inside of the intestinal tract. This mucosal layer is constantly renewing itself:

  • Stem cells in intestinal crypts continuously generate new mucosal cells
  • Mucosal cells live around 5 days before they die and slough off into the intestinal lumen
  • The entire mucosal layer is replaced every 4-5 days

This constant renewal keeps the mucosal lining healthy and allows damaged areas to rapidly heal. The process slows somewhat with age but continues even in the elderly.

Further, individuals produce new intestinal neurons throughout life. The enteric nervous system can regenerate neurons after significant loss due to inflammation or injury.

The regenerative capacities of the intestinal mucosa and nervous system allow the intestines to maintain function for decades of life.


Here is an overview of why certain body parts retain regenerative powers even with age:

Body Part Reasons for Enduring Regenerative Capacity
Brain Neurogenesis – lifelong ability to produce new neurons
Stem Cells Self-renewing; Can differentiate into many cell types
Reproductive Cells DNA tightly packed for protection from mutations
Heart Cardiomyocyte renewal; Neovascularization
Kidneys Nephron progenitor cells; Capacity to enlarge nephrons
Liver Mature hepatocytes can proliferate; Progenitor cells
Lungs Progenitor cells; Remarkable capacity to regain function
Intestines Constant renewal of mucosal lining; Neuron regeneration


While aging affects every body system to some degree, certain parts retain a surprising capacity for regeneration lasting into old age. This includes organs like the heart, kidneys, liver, and intestines which can renew cells throughout life.

Regenerative powers also persist in cell populations like adult stem cells and germ cells. The brain too can renew neurons and make new connections well into later decades of life.

Understanding why these regenerative processes endure may hold clues to combating aging in other tissues. With further research, we may discover ways to encourage regeneration and restore youthfulness to more areas of the body.

Though we will continue to age, focusing on supporting our body’s innate regenerative capacities may help us live vibrantly at any stage of life.