The versatility and paradox of GDF 11

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In addition to its roles in embryonic development, Growth and Differentiation Factor 11 (GDF 11) has recently drawn much interest about its roles in other processes, such as aging. GDF 11 has been shown to play pivotal roles in the rescue of the proliferative and regenerative capabilities of skeletal muscle, neural stem cells and cardiomyocytes. We would be remiss not to point that some controversy exists regarding the role of GDF 11 in biological processes and whether it will serve as a therapeutic agent. The latest studies have shown that the level of circulating GDF 11 correlates with the outcomes of patients with cardiovascular diseases, cancer and uremia. Based on these studies, GDF 11 is a promising candidate to serve as a novel biomarker of diseases. This brief review gives a detailed and concise view of the regulation and functions of GDF 11 and its roles in development, neurogenesis and erythropoiesis as well as the prospect of using this protein as an indicator of cardiac health and aging.

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