B vitamins called folates can stimulate stem cell proliferation independently of their role as vitamins. This is according to a collaborative study from the University of Georgia and Tufts University, which used a cell culture system in addition to a live animal model system to establish these results.
Folates, whether supplemental B vitamins or natural folates found in food, are an essential cofactor for single-carbon transfer reactions. Folates are integral for the proper functioning of all cells in the body and are critical to prevent birth defects, in particular defects of the neural tube (spinal cord).
This study shows, for the first time, that an adult stem cell population is controlled by an external factor arising from outside the animal. The animal model system was the small, free-living roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans.
Is this the case for human stem cell populations? Difficult to say, but it surely can’t hurt to make sure that you are getting enough folate in your diet.
This work was published in this article: Snehal N. Chaudhari et al., “Bacterial Folates Provide an Exogenous Signal for C. elegans Germline Stem Cell Proliferation,” Developmental Cell, 2016; 38 (1):33 DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2016.06.013.