28 October 2008

Anti-Aging Science

"Science against aging". This is the name of the first version of an unprecedented global program, which contains a unified scientific strategy to combat aging. It was prepared by a group of scientists under the leadership of a public organization and the Science for Increasing Life Expectancy Foundation. Recently, this program was discussed at a round table organized by the foundation together with the InformNauka agency. The discussion was attended by well—known Russian scientists representing various fields of science - gerontology, molecular biology, genetics, neurobiology, mathematical modeling, nanotechnology. The completed program can become the basis of a national strategy for life extension.

Today, the aging process is described by dozens of scientific theories, hundreds of laboratories are studying, a number of national and international documents have been adopted on this problem, but there is still no unified scientific plan for studying this process. Aging is an interdisciplinary problem studied not only by molecular biologists, geneticists and biochemists, but also by cytologists, physiologists, mathematicians and specialists in many other fields.

The creation of a unified scientific strategy to combat aging was undertaken by a public organization and the foundation "Science for Increasing Life Expectancy" in collaboration with scientists from various branches of science. The first version of the global interdisciplinary scientific program was the subject of discussion at a round table that took place recently in Moscow at the President Hotel.

In order for a research plan to become an effective tool, it must be properly structured. The creators of the program used a synthetic, integrative approach, linking a variety of branches of science and different approaches into a single system.

"At the very beginning, we chose specialists who outlined the problems in their field, Mikhail Batin, head of the public organization Science for Increasing Life Expectancy, noted in his speech to the audience. — As a result, we got a lot of different "pieces" that form the picture of aging. At the next stage, all of them should be grouped according to different levels of organization of living matter: molecular, subcellular, cellular, organ-tissue, systemic, population. Then we discard this disciplinary approach and form a systematic model for studying aging. Phenomena of different order will no longer be mixed here, but cause-and-effect relationships will be revealed. After the model is built, it is possible to highlight "hot spots" and identify projects for specific implementation. From our point of view, the structuring of the program should not be a step-by-step, but a parallel process. That is, we will try to build it at once on all levels of the organization of scientific tasks."

M. Batin stressed that this program is based on ideal conditions, as if all the forces of world science were thrown at this problem. However, it implies a "minimum program" when smaller, specific problems are solved on the way to achieving a super task - for example, the fight against age–related diseases.

In addition to discussing the structure of the program, the participants of the round table named those hypotheses, approaches and solutions that it is important to pay attention to and not miss when drawing up the program. According to Elena Tereshina, head of the lipid metabolism laboratory of the Russian Gerontological Research and Clinical Center, aging is actually associated with the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats in the body. "Preparing for today's meeting, I looked at the classification of genes responsible for human aging, and it turned out that these are mainly genes of lipid metabolism and protein complex, insulin receptors," she explained. "Therefore, it is necessary to compare the gene and metabolic network, identify their central nodes and see where they touch in terms of human aging."

This topic was continued by Alexey Moskalev, already from the standpoint of genetics: "In addition to the aging program, there is also a life expectancy program. Genes-clusters of life expectancy "include" genes of resistance to stress. In animal experiments, we can obtain the effects of life expectancy by switching regulatory genes on and off. If we study all this, then, firstly, we will be able to train our body with moderate stresses, and on the other hand, pharmacologically regulate switch genes."

Head of the Laboratory of Prenatal Diagnostics of Hereditary and Congenital Diseases of the State Research Institute of Obstetrics and Gynecology named after Otta, chief specialist of St. Petersburg in genetics, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences Vladislav Baranov told about what is already being done in his laboratory and other scientific institutions of the country for the early detection and prevention of age-related diseases. He noted that there is a large group of "predisposition genes". Each person receives a set of them from their parents at birth, and at some point they are realized in the body in the form of a "weak link". Now there is a lively search for such genes for each disease all over the world. For almost every disease, its genetic background is known – from 50 to 150 genes. Professor Baranov said that a biochip has been developed in his laboratory, with the help of which it is possible to identify the genes responsible for hereditary thrombophilia in the body.

Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Head of the Laboratory of Memory Neurobiology of the Institute of Normal Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences Konstantin Anokhin, speaking, practically designed a section of the program dedicated to higher nervous activity. "If I were making this section," he said, "I would divide it into two topics. The first is the role of the brain in regulating the aging of the whole organism, the second is the aging of the brain itself. I will focus on the second topic in more detail. We know cases when a somatically healthy organism suddenly begins to age rapidly in relation to the nervous system, and this often leads to somatic death. We know cases when people with normal dynamics of physical aging demonstrate the phenomena of intellectual longevity. And we know a certain average component, which, if we take it for granted, does not look optimistic. Recent studies show that all intellectual abilities of a person, with the exception of vocabulary, begin to fall at the age of 22-23. This is the norm, but is it possible to influence it? With regard to these three groups-directions, I would ask the following questions: 1. What happens in each case? 2. What can be done today? 3. What is known?".

Professor K. Anokhin suggested that many age-related diseases of the nervous system are not associated with cell death, but with the loss of connections between them, and it is possible not to restore cells, but to restore broken connections. He said that the staff of his laboratory managed to show that these destroyed connections can be reconstructed, and, in particular, to return those individual memories that were completely lost.

The discussion was also attended by Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Mikhail Dubina - Head of the Laboratory of Bionanotechnologies of the St. Petersburg Scientific Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor Sergey Kiselev — Head of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Genetics and Cell Technologies of the Institute of General Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor Alexander Boldyrev - MBC MSU, Vasily Novoseltsev — Chief Researcher of the V. A. Trapeznikov Institute of Management Problems RAN.

The result was summed up by the chairman of the Gerontological Society of the Russian Academy of Sciences, head of the Department of the Research Institute of Oncology. Petrova (St. Petersburg), Professor Vladimir Anisimov: "Ultimately, everything is tested by experiment: either we use factors that accelerate aging, or slow it down. We need to have a base for such research, and such bases exist in Russia. Therefore, I return to my main message: we must realize who knows how to do what, summarize and propose specific projects that can be implemented today by our efforts in cooperation with foreign colleagues."

Work on the program will continue. Professor V. Anisimov proposed to present the quintessence of the program at the 3rd All-Russian Congress of Geronotologists, which will be held at the end of September 2009 in Yaroslavl, InformNauka concludes.

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